By Jay FieldDecember 23, 2017
BAYAMON, Puerto Rico--U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Task Force Power Restoration team members met with Bayamon city leaders to discuss the potential use of city land space at the Bayamon sports complex in the greater San Juan metropolitan area Dec. 22. The task force sought the temporary use of the property as a warehouse and staging area for critical materials used in the power restoration mission, including utility poles and other power grid supplies.
To date, the Corps has received more than 12,000 of an estimated 52,000 poles needed, as well as 270 miles of an estimated 3,200 miles of conductor wire needed, among other items. Some of that material goes directly to the field where crews are working, while the rest goes to a warehouse in the southern port city of Ponce, some 80 miles away or about a one-and-a-half-hour drive over the mountains.
TFPR Real Estate Chief Eric Sternberg, deployed from the Great Lakes and Ohio River Division, Cincinnati, Ohio, had been looking for a location to stage materials in San Juan, since most shipments come via the port there. He began working with city leaders to obtain use of a suitable property to speed up distribution of supplies and equipment across the island.
Sternberg, who was born in Puerto Rico, said Bayamon Mayor Ramon L. Rivera Cruz' offer of the sports complex shortens the acquisition timeline and provides much needed space for the power restoration mission, at no cost to the U.S. government.
"With the challenges with acquiring property, because of our limited negotiating ability--we can't negotiate when I can only offer two months of rent--they stepped in at the last minute and offered all this space that affects their daily operations," said Sternberg. "They said, 'you know what, this is best for the island,' and they partnered with us. And it couldn't have happened at a better time."
"We need your support ... for the whole island," said Cruz. "If we can do something in that process, that would be perfect, because Bayamon is going to be included in the [recovery] process that you are making in Puerto Rico."
The complex features an indoor sports arena and a soccer stadium that is home to NBA star Carmelo Anthony's North American Soccer League franchise team Puerto Rico FC. Sternberg said plans are to use the indoor space as a warehouse, and the parking lot and exterior area of the stadium as a staging area.
USACE Puerto Rico Power Grid Program Director Jose Sanchez, originally from Puerto Rico, expressed his appreciation for what the mayor has done for the recovery effort.
"This is really a great thing," said Sanchez. "Hopefully, other mayors will take that lead from you."
The sports complex area available to TFPR encompasses 87,000 square feet. Sternberg and his team have acquired short-term leases of 780,000 square feet, 680,000 square feet of which were acquired at no cost. The leases include office space, warehouse and staging areas.
At the meeting, TFPR Commander Col. John Lloyd, deployed from the Pittsburgh District, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, took the opportunity to update the mayor on the progress of the power restoration mission. The installation of generators at Yabucoa and Palo Seco power plants, along with work on the loop of transmission lines, helps stabilize the grid. At the same time, he added, efforts continue on the distribution lines that deliver electricity to homes, businesses and industrial facilities.
"The focus of that [distribution line work] has been the major populated areas, like San Juan, Bayamon, Arecibo, Mayaguez, Ponce and Fajardo," said Lloyd. "I would expect that we would see the majority of Bayamon probably energized by the end of January. We see an increase with material coming in every day to help with that restoration effort."
Sanchez confirmed the repair effort is ramping up and progress is growing.
"The month of December has been a really good month for us," said Sanchez. "We have more people, we have more materials in place. Having that laydown yard here in Bayamon will not only help Bayamon, but the entire metro area."