Senator DeGazon met with the DPNR and DOA to Discuss Mitigating the 2019 Drought Scenarios
On Friday, April 12 2019, Senator Allison DeGazon met with the Commissioners for the Departments of Planning and Natural Resources and Agriculture to discuss the possibility of the USVI going experiencing a prolonged dry season, or an outright drought.
“At the meeting with the department heads, the Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) expressed there willingness to assist the Department of Agriculture (DOA), with possible funding, towards mitigating possible drought scenarios. However the main focus of the DPNR is the capturing of storm water runoff that would recharge our aquafers by capturing the water runoff that in turn assist farmers," DeGazon said.
Degazon said the VI previously experienced a severe drought during the summer of 2015. At that time, farmers sought relief from the DOA.
"Unfortunately, the department, with continued limited resources, was not in the position to assist the farmers. However, with the DOA, working with DPNR, has begun exploring possibilities of securing federal funding and methods to address," DeGazon said.
The U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM) monitors drought conditions using both scientific data and input from experts on-the-ground to provide a weekly analysis and assessment of current drought conditions for the United States. The National Drought Mitigation Center, since the drought 2015, will include the USVI in the Drought Monitor.
“As a community, we have learned about the negative, long-term effects of a drought that have a serious threat to the USVI. For the last seven to nine years, the U.S. Virgin Islands have experienced uncommonly dry weather," She said. "As recent as 2015, the eastern parts of St. Thomas and St. John, and the entire island of St. Croix experienced over six months, without significant rainfall. Over 86% the USVI was under a water deficit by early August 2015. These extreme conditions damaged crops and pastures weakened and killed livestock and wildlife, and increased the threat of wildfires."
According to the NRCS Caribbean Area Director, Edwin Almodóvar, at that time, stated the Caribbean Area experiences the effects of climate change that makes us more vulnerable than other areas of the world.
"We will be confronting many climate-related issues in the upcoming years that will change the way farmers manage their land. We face drought, wildfire, salt water intrusion of our aquifers from sea level rise, African dust, unpredictable weather – all traits of climate change. NRCS is here to help farmers adapt to climate change," Almodavar said.
In addition, then President Obama, along with then Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack were committed to ensuring that agriculture remains a bright spot in our nation’s economy by sustaining the successes of America’s farmers, ranchers, and rural communities through these difficult times.
"We’re also telling producers in St. Croix that USDA stands with you and your communities when severe weather and natural disasters threaten to disrupt your livelihood,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
The senator said the Virgin Islands needed to move quickly in addressing the issue.
“The US Virgin Islands can ill-afford to sit back, and then attempt to react to pending drought situations, especially when it comes to feeding ourselves through our local farmers. I find it imperative that we do everything we could to mitigate against droughts," Senator DeGazon concluded.