Army Corps of Engineers presents status of projects, needs

By John McPhaul

The United States Army Corps of Engineers on Thursday presented to members of the Reconstruction Council, led by State secretary-designate Larry Seilhamer Rodríguez, the status of several projects that the Corps has undertaken in Puerto Rico.

The projects include work on the Río Puerto Nuevo, Río La Plata and Río Grande de Arecibo.

“The report we have received presents us with the current status of the projects, funds and their needs,” Seilhamer said, noting that the report marks the beginning of conversations and collaborative assistance between island agencies and the Corps of Engineers aimed at carrying out the projects together. “The Reconstruction Council will continue to actively collaborate so that they are completed, as well as others that are under the prospective consideration of the Corps of Engineers.”

Seilhamer, an engineer by profession, noted that the Corps of Engineers has established timelines for the different stages of each project.

Meanwhile, Tim Murphy, deputy director of engineers for the Division of Projects and Program Management of the Corps of Engineers’ Jacksonville District, emphasized that the Corps has been working in Puerto Rico for decades.

“Our existing infrastructure survived hurricanes Irma and Maria, protecting the people of Puerto Rico,” he said. “Because of our levees and dams, no one was flooded. The administration of Gov. Pedro Pierluisi has been fantastic in helping us implement our $2.5 billion program.”

Seilhamer announced meanwhile that a coordination group will be created between the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), the Department of Transportation and Public Works (DTOP by its Spanish acronym), the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (PRASA) and the Telecommunications Regulatory Board to continue the works promoted by the Reconstruction Council and the Corps of Engineers, using all funds in an intelligent and proactive way.

At the meeting in which the status of various projects was presented, Cataño Mayor Félix “El Cano” Delgado, representing the Mayors Federation, and Francisco Amil, a legislative adviser for the Mayors Association, were present. Also present were the head of the Water Resources and Project Management Division, Milan Mora; the head of the Water Resources Section, Laurel Reichol; the manager of the Supplementary Program, Cynthia Pérez; the senior adviser of Project Management, Alberto González; the senior manager of the Río Puerto Nuevo Project, engineer José Bilbao; and his counterpart from the Río La Plata Project, Sheila Hint; the senior manager of the Río Grande de Arecibo Project, Brenda Calvente; the area engineer, Maricarmen Crespo; the associate engineer, Jesús Soto; the project manager for Interagency Works, Marcello Celles; and project managers Jorge Tous and Kiomi Lamb.

At the end of the meeting, Seilhamer reiterated the government’s full support for the initiatives. He said he will continue working to get the projects completed and thanked the Corps of Engineers for the work they have done and will do for Puerto Rico.

The Puerto Rico Reconstruction Council, since its creation under Executive Order 2021-011, has conducted a full work schedule that has included meetings between Federal Emergency Management Agency officials and the presidents of the aforementioned island mayors’ organizations.

Thursday’s gathering was part of a series of meetings of the Reconstruction Council being held by Seilhamer on the premises of the State Department in San Juan and in the municipality of Ponce.

The Reconstruction Council is made up of the secretaries of State, Education, Housing, DTOP, and Natural and Environmental Resources, along with the officials from the Central Office for Recovery, Reconstruction and Resiliency, the Infrastructure Finance Agency, PREPA and PRASA, and the assistant secretary for priority projects of La Fortaleza.

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