WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs (OIA) has announced that $499,796 will be awarded to the University of the Virgin Islands to study and analyze the best ways to mitigate the growing influxes of Sargassum seaweed to the territory.
On Sunday, July 24, U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) Governor Albert Bryan Jr., declared a State of Emergency to mitigate the impact of the unusually high amounts of Sargassum seaweed piling up on USVI shores and having a negative impact on water-production capabilities on St. Croix.
“President Biden has ordered federal assistance to supplement the territory’s response efforts to emergency conditions related to the unprecedented amounts of Sargassum seaweed influx to the territory,” said Assistant Secretary Carmen G. Cantor. “We are working with FEMA and other federal partners to ensure that the funds we provide today will complement other federal support to the Virgin Islands.”
The University of the Virgin Islands has proposed to collect and evaluate the foundational information and develop the tools necessary for a territorial Sargassum mitigation plan. The funds will be used to prepare an oceanographic method and modeling project through monitoring and documenting Sargassum accumulation and assessing water and environmental quality in key coastal locations. Results will be published and made available to territorial and federal agencies and the public to aid in the development and implementation of Sargassum management strategies for the USVI.
On July 25, 2022, President Biden issued a response from the White House, approving the use of federal funds to support mitigation of the Sargassum emergency in the territory and authorized the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate all disaster relief efforts which have the purpose of alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population, and to provide appropriate assistance.
The Assistant Secretary for Insular and International Affairs and the Office of Insular Affairs (OIA) carry out the Secretary of the Interior’s responsibilities for the U.S. territories of American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Additionally, OIA administers and oversees federal assistance under the Compacts of Free Association to the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau. OIA also administers a discretionary Technical Assistance Program for all the Insular Areas.