Administration plans to compost majority of vegetative debris

ST. CROIX, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – Power restoration is “expected to spike” over the next two weeks as many significant neighborhoods are nearly ready to be energized, Governor Kenneth E. Mapp said Friday following a detailed briefing on both power restoration and debris removal.

The Governor requested updates on each neighborhood on St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix, with specific concerns about concentrated population areas, schools, churches and recreation centers.

“Tell me about Louis E. Brown Villas along the highway where the seniors live – we have to get them energized,” the Governor asked.

Clinton Hedrington Jr., the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority’s (WAPA) Electric System Chief Operating Officer, reported that Louis E. Brown was one of the many areas expected to receive power this weekend.

Another 100 linemen will join the 760 working in the Territory next week, according to WAPA. Power restoration throughout the Virgin Islands remains at about 43 percent, with a large number of new areas expected to be energized as repairs are completed to major transmission lines.

“Ninety percent restoration by Christmas remains the target,” the Governor said.

Following the neighborhood by neighborhood assessment of power restoration, the Governor requested that streetlighting be made a priority and suggested that at least some lights be fixed in all areas of the island.

“I want you to concentrate on the main thoroughfares, but make sure that we at least get some street lights up throughout the Territory,” he said.

The Governor remains frustrated with the pace of debris removal and met with members of the Administration and contractors Friday in order to discuss both removal and the final disposal of hurricane debris.

Governor Mapp stated that the vast majority of organic hurricane debris will likely be chipped and composted, however, given the need to meet federal timelines all options for disposal must remain open to the Virgin Islands Government, to include a small amount of controlled burning.

“Expenses for debris removal will be covered by the federal government, however, if we want them to pay for it, it must be done in a specific time frame,” the Governor said. “We have to be realistic about our ability to manage all this material.”

Administration officials are working this weekend on finalizing a multi-pronged approach for disposing of hurricane debris and preserving the maximum amount of the Territory’s valuable hardwoods.

Agriculture Commissioner Carlos Robles said that more than six weeks ago he formally requested that the Army Corp of Engineers assist in separating hardwoods such as mahogany, tibbet, lignum vitae, genip and ironwood from the rest of the hurricane debris.

“The mahogany is being extracted from the debris piles as we speak,” Robles said.

The Commissioner indicated that a plan for distributing the tropical hardwood was in the works and that the Department would make an announcement as to when community groups or individuals could arrange pick up. “We are identifying sites to store it now,” he said.

Governor Mapp said the debris and power restoration team would meet with him weekly at Government House until the Territory had been fully energized and the majority of debris had been cleared away.

“Friday’s meeting was very productive,” the Governor said. “We have the information we need to be able to plan and to help manage the public’s expectations.”