WASHINGTON—Doug Domenech, the U.S. Interior Assistant Secretary Insular and International Affairs, met yesterday with U.S. Virgin Islands and Federal Emergency Management Agency officials in St. Croix to review hurricane rebuilding efforts.
He provided $2.8 million in federal grants for rebuilding infrastructure and utilities.
The funds made available will support upgrades at public schools, road rehabilitation in St. Croix, and meter reading for the Water and Power Authority.
“Hurricanes Irma and Maria greatly tested the resiliency of Virgin Islanders but they are stronger than ever,” said Domenech. “My team and I visited this week with public and private sector officials on a wide range of issues including how to provide abundant and affordable energy to consumers for the future. [Interior] Secretary [Ryan] Zinke continues to be a strong advocate for Virgin Islands’ needs at the highest levels of the Trump administration.”
Domenech met various other officials over his two-day visit to the territory, with site visits at the Juan F. Luis Hospital and Medical Center on St. Croix, and the Virgin Islands National Park on St. John. Office of Insular Affairs policy director Basil Ottley, who has accompanied the assistant secretary to the territory, will remain for recovery meetings through March 24.
The $2.8 million in federal funds presented yesterday include $1.5 million for:
1) structural repairs at U.S. Virgin Islands public schools to include mechanical, electrical, and plumbing upgrades;
2) $1.2 million toward rehabilitation of roads in Christiansted on St. Croix.
This funding was made available through the Capital Improvement Programs of the Office of Insular Affairs in the Department of the Interior.
In addition, $178,996 was provided to the VI Water and Power Authority for Hurricane Recovery Meter Reading Assistance.
Hurricanes Maria and Irma destroyed nearly 90 percent of electric distribution services across the territory and completely destroyed the automated meter infrastructure, cutting electricity, and simultaneously bringing collection and revenues to a halt.
With critical assistance from FEMA, WAPA has conducted more than $4 million in component repairs for systems and restored electric transmission and distribution to more than 98 percent of the territory.
Until automated reading capabilities are fully restored, OIA Technical Assistance is being provided to facilitate manual readings for WAPA for the next three months.
There are more than 41,000 meters across the three islands of St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix. The funding will provide an important jumpstart to much-needed revenue streams through timely billing and collections. (PR)