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Westerman, González Colón Survey Hurricane Damage in Puerto Rico


WASHINGTON, D.C., October 6, 2022 -

Today, House Committee on Natural Resources Ranking Member Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) joined U.S. Rep. Jenniffer González Colón (R-Puerto Rico) in Puerto Rico to assess the damage from Hurricane Fiona and discuss next steps for the island's recovery.

"It was great to see power and water systems almost fully restored in less than three weeks after Fiona struck, but there is still much work to do repairing roads and bridges and getting homes livable after the devastating floods," Westerman said."Federal agencies need to continue working with the Puerto Rico government and local municipalities to not only recover from Fiona, but to also rebuild with more resiliency after Maria and make sure there is timely and wise spending of the billions of federal relief dollars provided after the natural disasters. No one understands the issues at play better than the residents of Puerto Rico themselves, and I'm so grateful Resident Commissioner González Colón invited me to come visit with those impacted by Fiona and speak to those on the ground about how Congress can best help long-term. This has been an informative trip, and I hope we can work together in Congress to implement solutions which help prevent future storms from causing full-scale disaster. My prayers continue to be with all of Puerto Rico as they recover.

"Having the opportunity to assess damages firsthand helps inform future congressional action to support Puerto Rico’s recovery," González Colón said."I thank Ranking Member Bruce Westerman for visiting the Island to survey Hurricane Fiona’s impact, and for engaging with local authorities and communities to better understand our most pressing needs. I look forward to continue working with him in the House Natural Resources Committee on behalf of the people of Puerto Rico."

Background

On Sept. 18, 2022, Hurricane Fiona made landfall on Puerto Rico, crossing the southwest corner of the island. It brought 85 mph winds and heavy rainfall to the island, totaling almost 32 inches in 72 hours near the southern coastal city of Ponce. Hurricane force winds and heavy rain caused an island-wide blackout and severe flooding. Hurricane Fiona taxed Puerto Rico’s already fragile electrical grid, which had been patched but never fully repaired or upgraded after Hurricane Maria in 2017.
 
LUMA Energy, LLC, the company currently in charge of electricity transmission and distribution in Puerto Rico, has been working to restore power to the entire territory, but has encountered significant challenges from severe flooding, impassable roads, deteriorating equipment, downed electrical lines and several underwater substations.

Westerman and González Colón met with Governor Pedro Pierluisi, local agencies, federal officials and power grid operators to learn about the recovery efforts and ongoing challenges to restoring electricity across the island. They also visited Salinas, one of the areas hit hardest by Hurricane Fiona, and conducted damage assessments in the municipalities of Utuado, Orocovis and Barranquitas. 


Contact: Committee Press Office 202-225-2761

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