Gov. Kenneth Mapp said Monday that he urged visiting members of the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce to treat residents of the U.S. Virgin Islands and other U.S. territories the same as all other American citizens.
The visiting representatives were touring the territory over the weekend at the invitation of Delegate Stacey Plaskett. (See “Congressional Group Tours St. Croix“)
Speaking at a news conference Monday, Mapp said the the visit will motivate Congress to increase the $20 million per fiscal year cap placed on the emergency fund allocated to the territories of Guam, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and the U.S. Virgin Islands cumulatively. This is important, he said, as $15 million of that emergency fund has been spent on disasters of other territories before Hurricane Irma or Maria hit the territory.
Mapp said he told the delegation the cap treats American citizens in the U.S. Virgin Islands differently when it comes to aid than if they lived in a U.S. states, where the cap does not exist.
“We will continue to work to make our case to Congress that American citizens should be treated equally everywhere,” Mapp said.
Other items discussed during the news conference included:
– 100 more linemen are going to arrive in the territory in the next seven to 10 days, bringing the total number of out-of-state linemen to 811. This is in addition to the 50 WAPA employees and roughly 60 private WAPA contractors.
– Mapp said that pot holes and roads will get worse before they get better due to the recent rains that have been falling on the territory and the limited funding to repair them.
“I am aware of how bad the roads are and they will be addressed,” Mapp said.
Part of Mapp’s appeal to increasing the emergency relief fund addresses the issue of investing in the roads and fixing them to withstand rough weather instead of just patching them up and having the patches wash away with each weather event.
– The governor is working on a plan to export electronic waste, metals and white waste (appliances) from the territory. However, mahogany wood will be repurposed for educational and other possibly income-producing uses. The exotic wood is an asset to the territory and it will be “given the value that it truly deserves.” 65 percent of the vegetation waste will be chipped and composted while the other 35 percent will be incinerated.
Mapp said that other options have been explored such as donating chipped or composted material to the national parks in the territory or stockpiling the materials. However, the national parks have refused to take the waste, saying they have more than enough, and stockpiling the waste is dangerous due to the fire risk.
– The Federal Government has given the U.S. Virgin Islands until March 20 to get rid of all the waste caused by the hurricanes, and if the waste is not disposed of effectively as the deadline gets closer, Mapp said the incineration scheduled will be sped up to make sure that the U.S. Virgin Island does not have to pay money that it does not have to pay the federal government to get rid of the waste.
– Magens Bay will formally open on Thursday and Royal Caribbean will be in port. Delta will also start their daily St. Croix to A tlanta route and is working on adding a Raleigh to St. Croix route. American Airlines will resume two daily flights between St. Croix and Miami beginning Dec. 16.
– Federal Coordinating Officer of FEMA Region II Bill Vogel announced that more than 43 percent of the territory now has power. St. Croix has 36 percent power restored, St. Thomas 48 percent and St. John 48 percent.
Mapp said residents without power whose neighbors have power can visit the WAPA customer care office to find out if they need to do anything to have power restored.