June 27, 2008 — While the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee Thursday approved $1.45 million for special projects in the Virgin Island as part of its Fiscal Year 2009 appropriations, the bills need approval by the full House, the U.S. Senate and President Bush before they become law.
"It may not come to fruition because there are questions about whether they'll complete the appropriations process," Brian Modeste, an aide to Delegate Donna M. Christensen, said Friday.
He said that President Bush has threatened to veto appropriations that exceed what he's asked the U.S. Congress to approve.
The two bills include funding for a new 911 emergency communications system for the Virgin Islands, a flood control project to protect the town of Frederiksted and a comprehensive engineering study of practical ways to connect the electricity grids between all three islands and to reduce utility bills for V.I. consumers.
"These projects will go a long way in creating a better and safer Virgin Islands for all of our people," Gov. John de Jongh Jr. said in a statement Friday.
The 2009 appropriations bill for the Commerce, Justice and State Departments included $600,000 in earmarked funding for the first phase of a comprehensive and coordinated emergency 911 communications system linking all first responders in the territory. The initial grant funding will go for the purchase of new software and computer equipment for the new system. The entire multiyear project is expected to cost a total of $9.5 million.
The Energy and Water Appropriations bill includes $350,000 in funding for the Army Corps of Engineers to finalize engineering plans and design for channel improvements to the lower portion of LaGrange Gut, a new levee and an interior drainage canal for the town of Frederiksted. In the works since the late 1990s, the grant funding will allow the Corps to modify and complete outdated plans and to proceed to construction of the $4 million project in the following year.
The Energy and Water bill also includes $500,000 for the engineering study to connect the electricity grids on all three islands through underwater cables. Connecting the electricity grids would allow the V.I. Water and Power Authority to become more efficient, reduce duplication of costly generation equipment and lead to lower electricity bills for all V.I. residents.
The governor said these three projects were priorities for his administration.
"While the appropriations process has a long ways to go, this is obviously a very good start," deJongh said.
Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.