Yesterday Interior Acting Assistant Secretary for Insular Areas Nikolao Pula and other officials met with U.S. Virgin Islands Governor Kenneth Mapp to discuss issues facing the territory. They discussed infrastructure challenges related to the hospitals and various initiatives Governor Mapp has implemented and is developing to bring greater fiscal stability to the Virgin Islands.
The Governor’s trip coincided with the release of $704,000 in technical and maintenance assistance funding from the Office of Insular Affairs (OIA) which will support the Governor and his administration in several important ways. Funds will be used to explore potential manufacturing and production in food and agricultural products and to save costs and improve the provision of public services in water distribution and maintenance and correctional safety.
“The Governor and I were able to have frank discussions on his priorities for the U.S. Virgin Islands,” said Acting Assistant Secretary Pula. “I am pleased OIA is able to provide some assistance to worthy projects that will directly impact and enhance the government’s ability to deliver services and opportunities.”
The projects funded from FY2017 OIA Technical and Maintenance Assistance Funds are as follow:
Virgin Islands Economic Development Authority – $250,000 to fund a study analyzing the feasibility of processing and packing local fruits and other agricultural plants to increase food resiliency and food security and how favorite local foods and plants can be produced for local consumption, gifts and export. This year, St. Croix held its 46th annual Agriculture and Food Fair themed “Agriculture: Our Heritage and Hope for the Future!” and was the largest agricultural exposition in the territory and possibly the largest in the Caribbean. The grant will be used to help explore whether an existing cottage industry can be expanded to larger scale manufacturing and provide a much-needed economic boost to the territory. This is a first-time funded project.
USVI Bureau of Corrections – $100,000 to provide help the USVI meet requirements under a U.S. District Court mandated settlement agreements requiring the USVI to maintain the health and safety of the population under its control, to include comprehensive preventive maintenance for sanitation and environmental health and fire and life safety. Funds are also provided to training and materials and supplies necessary for efficient functioning of the prison system and meeting basic requirements under the law. Three facilities in the territory hold 600 inmates. Prior year shortcomings have prompted transfer of over 250 inmates to off-island facilities further distancing family members and costing approximately $7.6 million. This is a first-time funded project.
Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority (WAPA)
$104,000 to purchase a hydraulic excavator and a compact roller to aid in the repair of water main breaks, and repair streets, sidewalks and roads following excavation projects. WAPA will see cost-savings from this grant as past repairs have required renting equipment at high cost.
$250,000 to prepare a Water Systems Master Plan for St. Thomas and St. John. The funds will be used to update the 30-year old plan and identify rehabilitation, expansion, and efficiency-improving projects for water systems in the territory for the next 20 years.
The Department of the Interior is responsible for coordinating federal policy with respect to the territories of American Samoa, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and administering and overseeing U.S. federal assistance provided to the Freely Associated States of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau under the Compacts of Free Association. The Office of Insular Affairs’ mission is to foster economic opportunities, promote government efficiency, and improve the quality of life for the people of the insular areas.