A final version of the USVI Recovery Report – an extensive document officials have said can serve as a “road map” for future storms – recounts damages across all sectors as a result of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, along with an assessment of work completed and a two-year look ahead.
“As this report demonstrates, we have made outstanding progress over the past year, including the courageous initial response to the disaster by our residents, local first responders, businesses and non-government organizations, and our federal partners,” Gov. Kenneth Mapp said in an introduction to the nearly 40 page document, which was released this weekend.
Mapp said in his statement that rebuilding the territory will continue to take years as the government overhauls the territory’s infrastructure and put in place the systems needed to make sure the damage isn’t worse the next time around. According to the report, the total cost of estimated damage is approaching $11 billion.
“Although total hurricane recovery funding for the U.S. Virgin Islands is now approximately $8.5 billion, there remains a significant unfunded need,” he said.
As of August, more than $1 billion in federal funding has been awarded to rehab the territory’s power system and, according to the report, several other projects have also been proposed.
“In addition, $174 million in permanent work is awaiting obligation for electrical distribution system-wide repairs,” the report states. “The government estimates $1.27 billion in mitigation and resiliency efforts have already started to reduce risks during this year’s storm season.”
– Installation of hundreds of composite poles that can better withstand high winds,
– The planned installation of “thousands” more composite poles to reinforce the electric grid,
– Undergrounding power and telecommunications infrastructure, and
– Providing back up generators on St. John to reduce dependence on the St. Thomas power grid in emergencies.
Long term, the V.I. Water and Power Authority will invest more in renewable energy options and reduce its dependence on fuel oil to increase efficiency to make the islands less susceptible to power outages and reduce electrical costs.
The total impact of the hurricanes on housing, including rentals and public housing, is estimated at $2.5 billion. To date, $1.36 billion has been disbursed from the federal government and other funding sources, including Federal Emergency Management programs and Housing and Urban Development disaster relief funding.
Plans are underway to completely rebuild the Estate Tutu housing community on St. Thomas and John F. Kennedy Terrace on St. Croix, and build new housing developments, including modern, low-rise communities. A large portion of federal Community Development Block Grant funding will be put toward reconstructing damaged homes and build affordable housing for renters.
The report indicates that permanent housing for more vulnerable populations, such as the elderly and mentally ill, will also be prioritized.
“Recognizing the urgent need for adequate, permanent emergency shelters in the territory, the government will also invest in the hardening and upgrading of existing community, public and private infrastructure to bring it up to appropriate sheltering standards, in the creation of new emergency sheltering facilities that could have multiple purposes outside a disaster,” the report says.
The long-term investment in a “more resilient” network of healthcare facilities is expected to cost more than $500 million. According to the report, more than 800 patients at hospitals on St. Thomas and St. Croix had to be evacuated after dialysis and cancer treatment services became unavailable after the hurricanes, and approximately 40 are still off island.
FEMA has agreed to fund more than $50 million in temporary and interim facilities, but in the meantime, detailed assessments of the Juan F. Luis Hospital and Charles Harwood Clinic on St. Croix have been conducted, and similar assessments are also underway for Schneider Regional Medical Center on St. Thomas and the Myrah Keating Smith Community Health Center on St. John, the report says.
All facilities are eligible for “major reconstruction or replacement” under federal guidelines, according to the report.
With hundreds of millions of dollars worth of damage to public schools across the territory, split sessions were implemented as modular units were moved in and installed. According to the report, in order to get schools running on a normal schedule for the 2018-2019 school year, temporary repairs were made to eight campuses and 245 modular classrooms were put in, along with six bigger shelters to replace facilities such as libraries and cafeterias.
“The combined $160 million effort will return more than 600 classrooms to service for the 2018-2019 school year, but most importantly children returned to a more stable learning environment with no more double session days,” the report says.
Assessments of the schools continue and over the next several months, the government will determine what campuses are eligible for permanent repairs, major reconstruction or full replacement. At this point, three schools have already been approved for a total rebuild.
Full assessments on telecommunications infrastructure, transportation and economic factors are also included in the report, which can be downloaded here.