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After nearly doubling the price of water for its southern Guam customers on Oct. 1 in a move that drew sharp criticism from island officials, the Navy has partially reversed course.

Navy officials said Friday that water rates would be reduced to $3.25 per 1,000 gallons, down from $4.05 per 1,000 gallons.

But the price break would extended only to its civilian customers: Guam Waterworks Authority and Guam Power Authority, said Navy Lt. Donnell Evans, U.S. Naval Forces Marianas spokesman, in a written response to Stars and Stripes.

The rate for its Defense Department customers — including Naval Base Guam and tenant commands — would remain at the current $4.05 per 1,000 gallons “to recover DOD share of past losses,” Evans wrote.

“The Navy will defer recovery of losses on water sale to GWA and GPA over the next five years.”

In a news release from her Washington, D.C., office, Guam’s Rep. Madeleine Bordallo welcomed the Navy’s announcement.

She said the price reduction was to go into effect immediately and was retroactive to Oct. 1.

“We appreciate the partial relief, and we will work to address the broader water issues on Guam in light of the planned military buildup,” Bordallo was quoted as saying.

Nearly 40,000 new military personnel and family members could move to Guam in coming years as part of the Pentagon’s overall plans to build up troop strength and operations on the island.

Some 8,000 Marines and their families and civilian support workers are to be relocated from Okinawa to Guam in the plan.

The Navy publicly announced in September that its rates for fiscal year 2008 would jump from $2.09 per 1,000 gallons to $4.05, and that rates would increase to $4.16 in fiscal 2009.

Some island officials then said the steep increase was too sudden and should have been phased in to be fair.

Simon Sanchez, chairman of the Consolidated Commission on Utilities, a governing board of elected officials for GWA and GPA, worried at the time that opponents of further military expansion might use the Navy’s decision as proof the Defense Department wasn’t a good partner with whom to do business.

Navy officials had said the increase was needed to cover ongoing operating and maintenance costs, and that the Navy had been running its Fena Reservoir water plant at a significant loss.

Evans said Friday that after a review of the cost components and discussions with the Navy and Office of Secretary of Defense comptrollers, it was determined that plant operations could break even at the new rate of $3.25.

“We’re taking this opportunity to foster better communication and coordination between Navy and the Government of Guam on utilities infrastructure, both now and in the future,” Evans wrote. “Navy will work more closely with local authorities during the planning stages in coordinating future planned rate adjustments.”

GWA spokeswoman Heidi Ballendorf said Friday the company is pleased with the Navy’s water rate decrease and is making progress in reducing its dependency on Navy water.

Sanchez could not be reached for comment Friday.

Stars and Stripes reporter Teri Weaver contributed to this report.

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