Building and Strengthening Relationships
WASHINGTON – The United States (U.S.) Department of the Interior’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Insular and International Affairs Keone Nakoa traveled to St. Croix, St. Thomas, and St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) last week where he met with territorial leaders and federal officials to discuss current priorities in the territory.
“I thank the government of the U.S. Virgin Islands and our federal partners in the USVI for taking the time to talk with me about how best the Office of Insular Affairs can work with the USVI government, the people of the USVI, and other federal agencies with offices in the islands. This was my first opportunity to meet with our partners and colleagues in-person in the Virgin Islands and to see first-hand their unique circumstances and opportunities for the Interior to have the greatest positive impact,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary Nakoa. “The USVI is the only U.S. territory in the Caribbean for which OIA has responsibilities, and we appreciate being able to visit and to hear from leaders on the ground.”
Deputy Assistant Secretary Nakoa visited St. Croix, St. Thomas, and St. John where he met with members of the Virgin Islands territorial government leadership including Wayne Bryan, Director of the Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency Fusion Center; Roger Merritt, Director of the Virgin Islands Waste Management Authority; and Jean-Pierre Oriol, Commissioner, Department of Planning & Natural Resources.
Federal partner meetings included a meeting led by NPS Superintendent Nigel Fields and staff who provided a tour with discussions and updates on Caneel Bay redevelopment, the land exchange for which OIA provided technical assistance, hurricane restoration projects, and law enforcement activities within the park. The delegation toured the Limetree Bay Refinery, which has been closed since early 2021, and met with community groups to discuss the impacts of the refinery on the community. Deputy Assistant Secretary Nakoa and staff also met with Mike Evans, Refuge Manager for Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge, and Kristen Hodge, Director of the U.S. Virgin Islands Joint Recovery Office for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, where the delegation learned about ongoing disaster recovery efforts from Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
OIA Division Director for Policy Basil Ottley, OIA Budget Analyst Julianna Rice, and USVI Desk Officer and Field Representative Dwayne Petersen, traveled with Deputy Assistant Secretary Nakoa, as well as OMB Program Examiner Michael Hildner and Interior Budget Analyst Patrick Joos who both cover the Insular Affairs portfolio for their respective offices.
The Assistant Secretary of 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. Find information about OIA and its work on www.doi.gov/oia, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.