FEMA allocates $2.6 million for phase 1 of Patillas Dam project

By John McPhaul

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has allocated over $2.6 million for the first phase of a project that aims to strengthen the Patillas Dam in case of a seismic event at the total estimated cost of $558 million, financed mostly with FEMA funds, the agency said in a press release.

The initial allocation will be for the design and engineering analysis of the project and is funded through FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, which is designed to help communities rebuild in a way that reduces future losses associated with natural events.

During the initial phase, an engineering analysis will be performed, including a review of existing and previous studies. Likewise, soil samples will be analyzed and information on the topography of the area will be collected.

“The recovery from Hurricane Maria provides us with an opportunity to strengthen the island’s critical facilities beyond what they were before the disaster,” said José Baquero, FEMA federal disaster recovery coordinator. “This project marks an unprecedented investment for the island with the goal of providing these communities with a reliable dam.”

The second stage of the project will consist of permitting to ensure that the project complies with all legal and environmental standards, as well as construction work.

For this, a detailed scope of work and milestone timeline, among other elements necessary for construction to begin, must first be submitted. Similarly, a geotechnical report, design drawings and a detailed plan for the operation and maintenance of the facility will be required for the second phase to begin.

The dam, built over a century ago, is part of the assets of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA). The construction of an embankment over the original base of the dam is planned.

PREPA Executive Director Efran Paredes Maisonet said project’s objective “is to mitigate the elements of structural vulnerability and give resilience to the dam built in 1913, to reestablish the operational levels of the reservoir, and in turn the necessary resources for power generation, agricultural irrigation and water supply for over 100,000 people in the southeastern part of the island.”

To date, FEMA has approved more than $87.7 million under its Hazard Mitigation Grant Program.

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