Puerto Rico’s Guajataca Dam still a source of concern after Hurricane Maria
AN JUAN – Farmers in the western towns of Puerto Rico demanded Thursday for the government to be transparent about water shortages at the irrigation channels in the towns of Isabela, Moca and Aguadilla.
When Hurricane Maria ripped across Puerto Rico in September 2017, it tore a hole in the emergency spillway of the Guajataca Dam. At one point, residents were in danger of the dam’s collapse. The situation impacted water service.
More than a year after Maria, however, the farming sector continues to endure water shortages from the Lake Guajataca source, a situation that endangers the harvest of hundreds of farmers in the area and the island’s food supply.
“We have been requesting information and answers from the concerned agencies for more than a year due to the lack of water in the irrigation channels. In the past months, we were promised that we would have water once a week, but this promise has been broken. We need to know with certainty the plan of action, the day we will have the channels supplied with water, water that is fundamental for agricultural development,” Hector Cordero, the head of the Farmers Association, said in a statement.
The issue is leading some farmers to consider closing operations.
“On an island, we must promote agriculture for many reasons, among the most relevant is food security. As a matter of fact, this area contains a diversified agricultural production that includes vegetables, grain, fodder among others, ” he said.
In May 2018, the farmers met with representatives of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority. At the meeting, officials told farmers that water service would be normalized by August.
“The service has never been completely restored, they have only provided water once or twice a week and there are often periods of time in which we don’t have water for several weeks,” he said.
The association’s leader stressed that farmers in the area have shared ideas to solve the problem, but have not taken relevance. “Among the ideas are to use the water from the reservoir of Sector Guerrero located in Aguadilla, a small lake near the canals that is in disuse, however it remains full of water due to a sinkhole where 2 meters of water are lost daily.”
Given the lack of answers from the local leadership, Cordero said he would send a letter to USACE Engineers who were in charge of the repairs of Lake Guajataca to request a meeting.