Rescuing Research

August 2018

Eleven months after Hurricane Maria hit the island of Puerto Rico, FSE is in the final stages of helping the USDA recover from the effects of the devastating hurricane.

Walt Dennis, FSE Project Superintendent at USDA in Ft. Pierce, FL, worked with several FSE employees and local subcontractors to complete a number of projects for the USDA. The first project, which we reported on in February, was to restore power and water to the laboratories so that the USDA could continue with its soybean project. We are proud to announce that not only was our staff successful in ensuring power and water for the soybean fields, but that the seed yield was the highest it has been for many years.

In fact, Ricardo Goenaga, Research Leader at the USDA-ARS-Tropical Agriculture Research Station, states that, "a fantastic and highly efficient contracting company (Four Seasons) and its local subcontractors went beyond their way to allow resuming research operations at [Laboratory] Isabela in a very short time allowing ARS and state soybean breeders throughout the nation to carry out their research and us to save critical germplasm at Isabela."

Despite this hard work, the facilities were still dealing with electrical grid failure in Puerto Rico. FSE installed new electrical equipment so the USDA can become grid independent. Other projects FSE has been completing, include installing a new well, repairing electrical systems, providing emergency generators and removing vegetation.

"Vegetation cleanup is a large job," says Walt. "That will probably be the last job that finishes."

The work for the USDA wasn't contained to only the island of Puerto Rico. The USDA also houses a quarantine station for new plant material on the island of St. Croix, which was also hit hard by the hurricanes of the fall. Bobby Maxwell, Superintendent at USDA Athens, took a crew down to the island to install a new roof on the facility.

Although the entire process has been time consuming, especially shipping equipment from the United States to Puerto Rico, Walt notes that the process has gone extremely well.

"We have had great help from everybody, including all of the FSE staff and the local contractors," says Walt. "Everybody was under a lot of pressure, but everybody worked together to make sure everything turned out good, and we ended up with a happy customer."

In fact, L. Earl Griffin, Safety Health and Environmental Manager, Team Lead at USDA, stated, "While I hope we never need your services in a manner that equals or exceeds those of the recent months, I also know, that in our time of need you are willing to go that extra mile to help."

 Hurricane Before and After