Army Corps to the Rescue!

In the wake of the slow response by the Trump Administration to the devastation caused by the category 4 Hurricane Maria's direct hit on Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been called to rebuild the infrastructure.
October 1, 2017, 9am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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President Trump and his administration continue to praise the emergency response to the devastation caused by Maria, and two weeks earlier, by Hurricane Irma, to the 3.4 million American citizens living in Puerto Rico.

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke asserted at a White House press conference on Thursday, "I know it is really a good news story in terms of our ability to reach people and the limited number of deaths that have taken place in such a devastating hurricane."

That didn't sit well with Carmen Yulín Cruz, the mayor of the island's largest (and capital) city, San Juan.

"Well maybe from where she's standing it's a good news story," Yulín Cruz told CNN's Alisyn Camerota after she was played the clip on "New Day." "When you're drinking from a creek, it's not a good news story. When you don't have food for a baby, it's not a good news story. When you have to pull people down from buildings -- I'm sorry, that really upsets me and frustrates me." [Per CNN].

Logistics problem

Thousands of containers filled with "food, water, medical aid, everything," are unable to leave the San Juan port due to a shortage of fuel and truck drivers, a Crowley Maritime official told CNN Thursday. In addition, many of the roads remained blocked due to hurricane debris.

But help is on the way from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), according to a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) official, report AnneClaire Stapleton, Katherine Grise and Jason Hanna for CNN.

"We're not going to rebuild the power grid overnight, but the US Army Corps of Engineers has just been mission-assigned, in the last 24 hours, to do just that," FEMA Deputy Director Daniel Kaniewski told CNN. "In addition to generators and fuel, we have assigned the US Army Corps of Engineers to rebuild" the US commonwealth's infrastructure.

The USACE, and all other military personnel, will be under the charge of Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan. If Trump accepts a request by the U.S Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), the Department of Defense, rather than FEMA, will be "in charge of handling the logistics of distributing recovery aid in Puerto Rico." 

Rubio acknowledged FEMA's role in providing federal assistance to local governments but said the Defense Department is the "only entity capable of executing a recovery effort of this scale and complexity."

Jones Act

On Thursday the president authorized a 10-day waiver of the Jones Act, a 1920 law that "requires all goods shipped between U.S. ports to be transported by U.S. vessels (and operated primarily by Americans)," reports PBS

"The act has had the unintended consequence of making it twice as expensive to ship things from the US mainland to Puerto Rico as it is to ship from any other foreign port in the world," according to Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain's office.

Two waivers were issued earlier in September in response to requests from the departments of Defense and Energy to facilitate petroleum distribution due to supply disruptions resulting from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, reports The New York Times.

Sen. McCain, long an advocate for repealing the law, most recently advanced legislation to do so in July. He renewed his call for repeal on Thursday after the waiver was announced.

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Published on Friday, September 29, 2017 in CNN
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