Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Insular Areas Doug Domenech and a departmental team today wrapped up a visit to coordinate Interior’s on-the-ground support to the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Citizens in the islands—including Interior employees—are suffering from hurricane damage, flooding, communication and power outages, blocked roads, and degraded water supplies.
"The Department of the Interior remains committed to doing everything within our power to help the people of the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico recover from the tragic impacts of Hurricanes Irma and Maria," said Assistant Secretary Domenech. "During our visit to the islands, we have been touched by the overwhelming needs of the people. At the same time, we have been deeply heartened by the dedication and courage of U.S. citizens here and of Interior employees and our federal, territorial, municipal and private partners. I have assured Governor Mapp of the U.S. Virgin Islands and Territorial Senators that Interior is here for the long haul and aspires to go above and beyond the call of duty."
The Interior team visiting the islands this week also included Lisa Branum, Director of the Office of Emergency Management, and Basil Ottley, Director of Insular Policy and a Virgin Islander. The Office of Insular Affairs coordinates federal policy for the U.S. territories of American Samoa, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands as well as administering and overseeing U.S. Compact grant assistance to the freely associated states of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republic of Palau.
The team’s work this week has included assessments of damage and discussion of the plans for recovery activities in St. Croix, St. Thomas, St. John and Puerto Rico, as well as operational meetings with USVI Governor Kenneth Mapp and leaders of FEMA, which coordinates the actions of all federal agencies in response to the hurricanes. The team also conferred with Virgin Islands senators, the Director of the Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency, and officials from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the National Guard.