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Charlotte Amalie
Saturday, July 13, 2024
HomeCommentaryLegislature CornerLegislature Corner: The State of WAPA's Infrastructure and Management is Unacceptable

Legislature Corner: The State of WAPA’s Infrastructure and Management is Unacceptable

Senator-at-Large Angel L. Bolques Jr. (file photo)

Senator Angel Bolques Jr. today expressed profound disappointment and concern regarding the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority’s (WAPA) continued inability to provide reliable electricity and water services to the residents of the U.S. Virgin Islands. This follows a major failure on the underground transmission line that carries power from St. Thomas, leaving all 2,600 WAPA customers on St. John without electricity for extended periods.

“Reliable electricity and water are not luxuries; they are essential services that our residents depend on daily,” said Sen. Bolques. “The recent outages have placed an enormous burden on the people of St. John, who already face unique challenges due to the lack of comprehensive infrastructure compared to St. Thomas and St. Croix. This situation is especially dangerous for our elderly and disabled residents, working families, and our business sector, including the public sector.”

During a WAPA board meeting, CEO Andrew Smith admitted, “We can never get to a zero outage scenario,” highlighting the severe limitations of the current infrastructure. Board members discussed numerous ongoing issues, including disputes over new generators and delayed infrastructure buyouts, exacerbating the power reliability crisis.

The current state of WAPA’s infrastructure and management is unacceptable,” said Bolques. “St. John’s residents are particularly vulnerable due to their reliance on imported resources for everything, making the need for reliable power even more critical. The outages have already caused significant disruptions, including business closures and impacts on essential services like the V.I. Waste Management Authority and the Cyril E. King Airport on St. Thomas.”

Sen. Bolques emphasized the dire consequences of these power failures: “Imagine the hardship for families trying to care for their newborn and elderly members or for businesses striving to stay afloat without consistent electricity. This is not just an inconvenience; it is a public safety issue.”

WAPA’s ongoing financial and operational struggles were laid bare, with board members citing neglected maintenance, budget constraints and the lack of backup generators. “We desperately need to do major maintenance on our generators,” Smith noted, while also admitting that cash flow issues hinder necessary repairs and upgrades.

Angel Bolques Jr., Senator-at-Large

35th Legislature of the Virgin Islands

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