Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Michael L. Connor and U. S. Army Corps of Engineers Deputy Commanding General for Civil and Emergency Operations Maj. Gen. William H. Graham visited ecosystem restoration, flood risk management and navigation projects in Puerto Rico March 8-10.
The visit was an opportunity for Connor and Graham to see the ongoing work in and around the San Juan communities that received funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), the largest investment in physical and natural infrastructure resilience in American history; and the 2022 Disaster Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (DRSAA), which provides unprecedented funding for qualifying natural disasters where damages occurred due to droughts, hurricanes, wildfires, and floods across the Nation.
“The Army is focused on building innovative, climate resilient infrastructure to protect communities and ecosystems to better serve Puerto Rico and the Nation,” said Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Michael L. Connor.
IIJA funding will invest over $50 billion to make communities safer and infrastructure more resilient to the impacts of climate change droughts, heat waves, wildfires and floods, which disproportionately impact communities of color.
As an example, the Cano Martin Pena Ecosystem Restoration project received a $163 million investment to restore the urban tidal channel and surrounding areas of the San Juan Bay National Estuary.
“This urban waterway project will significantly improve the health and welfare of the surrounding communities in San Juan by reducing exposure to polluted water and sediment, improving water quality, and restoring marine life and mangrove habitat,” said Connor.
San Juan Harbor also received $45.5 million for navigation improvements such as maintenance dredging for deepening and widening the channels. Over 13 million tons of commerce moves through the harbor annually.
“San Juan Harbor is the commonwealth’s principle port and only harbor on the north coast,” said Connor. “This will allow safe passage of commercial vessels without restrictions and will strengthen the local supply chain.”
The Rio Grande de Manati and Rio Culebrinas projects, received over $14.8 million and $26.4 million, respectively, in DRSAA funding to address flooding in the two communities. Rio Grande de Manati has reached flood stage more than 30 times over the past 50 years, resulting in a wide array of impacts to property owners. Rio Culebrinas is prone to flash flooding, which is prevalent from May through December due to steep slopes in the upper basin. Three lives were lost in 2017 during floods that resulted from Hurricane Maria.
“The Administration is fully committed to supporting Puerto Rico,” said Connor. “These projects will address Puerto Rico’s ongoing recovery and resilience needs.”
The $14 billion in funding from the infrastructure law and other appropriations, will allow U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to continue work on or complete over 500 projects across Nation and its territories to strengthen supply chains, improve waterways, and reduce flooding.