Today, Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett reaffirmed her support to Governor Albert Bryan Jr. and the 33rd Legislature of the Virgin Islands in response to the continued struggle to operate an efficient and sound Water and Power Authority (WAPA). As the Government of the Virgin Islands and WAPA face the consequences of the previously predicted insolvency, Congresswoman Plaskett urges all parties to work together to create a stable utility system that supports the businesses and people of the Virgin Islands.
“As I stated in my letter to Governor Bryan and Senate President Francis on Sept. 19, 2019, I stand ready as the Congressional representative of the Virgin Islands to work at the federal level with the governor and the Legislature of the Virgin Islands on solving the crisis in the Water and Power Authority. I appreciate that the governor has stated that WAPA’s position at this time is indeed a crisis. Now, we will need to use all the resources in our toolbox and work creatively to solve problems that have been decades in the making. I reiterate that I believe declaring WAPA in a state of emergency would be important.”
Plaskett went on to say, “Many have asked, ‘What benefit will come from such a declaration?’ I have discussed with several federal officials in the administration how to bring multiple agencies to the table to provide support. A majority of these individuals have responded that declaring WAPA in a state of emergency is a positive signal that the Virgin Islands has faced the sober reality that the Water and Power Authority is indeed broken. Additionally, experts in the financial markets have reiterated the same to me. WAPA has a massive debt load, untenable contracts and severe operational inefficiencies that cannot be easily solved, and even with rate increases, financial markets remain skeptical of refinancing.
Gov. Bryan’s declaration and the support of the Legislature would facilitate a request for technical assistance and a plan for stabilization from federal agencies. We are at a critical stage where the V.I. government’s next steps may determine the utilities’ direction for not only the next months and years, but potentially for several generations.