US House Committee Approves Funding for Caño Martín Peña, other Puerto Rico Projects
SAN JUAN — the U.S. House Appropriations Committee has approved the Fiscal Year 2017 Energy and Water Appropriations Bill, which proposes to allocate more than $4 million to fund four projects in Puerto Rico to be carried out by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved its version of the bill, which would also fund these four projects.
Of particular importance, the bill provides $750,000 to enable the Caño Martín Peña project to proceed to the Preconstruction Engineering & Design (PED) phase, which entails the completion of detailed engineering studies and construction design. The plan calls for the Corps of Engineers to dredge approximately 2.2 miles of the eastern half of the Caño to a width of 100 feet and a depth of 10 feet, with slight variations in channel width and depth at the several bridges that cross the Caño.
The walls of the dredged Caño will be constructed with concrete and steel. The project, once constructed, will restore the natural tidal connection between the San José Lagoon and the San Juan Bay, significantly improving water quality and habitat in the Caño and the surrounding San Juan Bay estuary. Residents in the eight communities along the Caño would be able to enjoy a healthy waterway, revitalized neighborhoods and greater economic opportunities, Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi said in a statement.
In June, Pierluisi led a congressional letter signed by 15 representatives and five senators to Assistant Secretary Jo-Ellen Darcy and Lieutenant General Thomas Bostick, the top civilian and military leaders of the Corps of Engineers, urging them to expedite the steps necessary for the project to proceed.
The resident commissioner has personally met several times with Assistant Secretary Darcy, and made visits to ENLACE and the Caño, including a visit in February 2015 with Congressman Bill Shuster, the chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, which has jurisdiction over the Corps of Engineers.
Pierluisi’s announcement on the appropriations also noted that he secured language in committee reports accompanying the fiscal 2016 appropriations bills for the Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency, “emphasizing the importance of the Caño Martín Peña project and urging the two federal agencies to work together on solutions to fund the project.”
In addition to funding for Caño Martín Peña, the House and Senate appropriations bills allocate $2.3 million for the operation and maintenance of the San Juan Harbor, which will allow channeling, dredging and shoal removal to be conducted. The bills also provide $730,000 to the Corps of Engineers so it can examine the feasibility of implementing improvements at the harbor, such as deepening or widening the channels to make way for larger and more ships.
Finally, the bills provide $281,000 to enable the Corps of Engineers to inspect levees and survey harbors throughout Puerto Rico to verify they are operating at authorized depth and determine whether dredging is needed.