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SRP employees aim to restore power to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria

FILE - In this Oct. 19, 2017 file photo, a brigade from the Electric Power Authority repairs distribution lines damaged by Hurricane Maria in the Cantera community of San Juan, Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico's government scored a big win in court Monday, Nov. 13, 2017 after a judge rejected the appointment of a former military officer to oversee the U.S. territory's troubled power company. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti, File)

PHOENIX — Employees with an Arizona utility company will soon travel to Puerto Rico to help rebuild the island’s power grid following the destruction caused by Hurricane Maria.

According to a press release, Salt River Project employees will travel to the island this weekend to “help guide and coordinate ongoing efforts” to rebuild the power grid.

The employees will work with Austin Energy, the utility company in charge of Austin, Texas, over the next two months to make up one of seven Incident Management Teams on behalf of the American Public Power Association.

The teams, which will each be made up of 10 people — eight from SRP and two from Austin Energy — will help the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority manage and coordinate the 3,500 utility field workers deployed on the island. They will be working out of a central command center in San Juan.

Each team member will work for 30 days. A second group of employees will deploy for another rotation in January.

Much of the island is still without power, months after Hurricane Maria tore through.

In November, officials in the U.S. and Puerto Rico gave differing views on when power would be fully restored to the U.S. territory after the hurricane hit as a Category 4 storm.

President Donald Trump had already authorized the Federal Emergency Management Agency to pay 100 percent of some cleanup and emergency costs for 180 days.

Washington will pay 90 percent of the additional cost of rebuilding Puerto Rico, including repair of public infrastructure like hospitals, bridges and roads and restoration of the island’s devastated power grid.

Typically, U.S. states cover 25 percent of those costs, with federal taxpayers covering 75 percent. Puerto Rico’s finances were in shambles even before the storm made landfall in September.

A large swath of the island still has no electricity, and complaints are widespread among business owners who say losses are mounting and from parents who say their children need to start school.

Tens of thousands have lost their jobs and some say more than 470,000 people could leave the island in upcoming years.

“If we don’t re-establish power and other basic services, the damage to our economy will be even greater,” said Puerto Rico’s public affairs secretary, Ramon Rosario. “We cannot allow that, and we have established clear goals.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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