<b>JACKSONVILLE, Fla.</b> - In keeping with its commitment to ensure that environmental impacts to aquatic resources from its projects are avoided, minimized or mitigated, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District, has created a four-acre wetland in Humacao, Puerto Rico.

The Rio AntAfA3n Ruiz Flood Damage Reduction Project in Humacao has provided relief from massive flooding for an estimated 4,000 residents in communities adjacent to the AntAfA3n Ruiz River. However, construction of the project impacted two acres of mixed mangrove and Pterocarpus swamp, in property owned by the Puerto Rican government.

"The four acres of Pterocarpus officinalis (swamp bloodwood or "chicken trees") and Annona glabra (pond apple) that compensated for the impacted wetlands represent our compliance with federal and local laws as well as our commitment to balancing the needs of development with respect for nature," said Cynthia PAfArez, Jacksonville District project manager.

Completion of the mitigation site was delayed due to lack of funding, real estate challenges and competing priorities. In March, Jacksonville District planted approximately 1350 bloodwood saplings and 460 pond apple saplings.

"We believe that the wetlands near the RAfAo AntAfA3n Ruiz are vital to the health of the area's ecology and the residents of Humacao too," said Wilberto Cubero-Deltoro, Jacksonville District environmental scientist.

"We are certainly pleased that prevention of human suffering and economic loss due to flooding has not come at the cost of sacrificing the environment, as we have more than made up for the two lost acres by planting four acres that will be well-tended," said Nelson Colon, Jacksonville District project manager.

A complete planting, tending and monitoring plan for the new wetlands was developed and Jacksonville District will monitor the condition and progress for two years before transferring the site to the local sponsor, the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources. DNER will then maintain and preserve the wetlands in perpetuity under a legal conservation easement and incorporate the wetlands as part of the Humacao Pterocarpus Forest Natural Reserve.

A minimum of 85-percent survival of planted species is required for two years after planting and losses of planted species below 85 percent survival will be replaced immediately. A DNER forest manager indicated that during the mitigation development universities and the scientific community could use the wetlands for research and other educational purposes.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16