FEMA obligates $89 million for dredging of Carraízo Reservoir
By John McPhaul
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced Sunday the obligation of a federal share of nearly $88.7 million to dredge the Carraízo Reservoir.
The project under the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (PRASA) will allow a greater water reserve for a large part of the population of the San Juan metropolitan and eastern areas of Puerto Rico, particularly during drought seasons.
The dredging will entail the removal of some 2.6 million cubic yards of sediment from the reservoir and the removed material will be transferred to three dikes. The remaining water will be transferred back to the reservoir and, once dry, the sediment will be used to recover the vegetation of the area through seeding or replanting, according to the corresponding regulations.
A comprehensive environmental assessment was conducted for the project, in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), to analyze the potential impacts of the works. The assessment — developed by FEMA and PRASA personnel — was available for public review and comment for 30 days, and the agency determined that the project will not have adverse effects on the environment.
“We know that this project is vital to providing a service as essential as water, while supporting health in general and economic development,” said Federal Disaster Recovery Coordinator José Baquero. “This is one of several projects that we evaluate under the environmental and historic preservation regulations, which seek to guarantee a compliant and long-term recovery.”
The Carraízo Reservoir serves the Sergio Cuevas Water Treatment Plant, which provides service to some 492,000 consumers in the municipalities of Caguas, Gurabo, Juncos, Las Piedras, San Juan, San Lorenzo and parts of Trujillo Alto. Carraízo supplies some 90 million gallons of water per day to its customers.
PRASA Executive President Doriel Pagán Crespo said the “dredging of Carraízo is a priority project, not only for the agency, but also for the governor.”
“This project seeks to increase the storage volume by approximately 528 million gallons,” she added. “The planning and design process, as well as the environmental compliance process, has been one of close collaboration with FEMA and the government’s Recovery Office (COR3), where we are finally seeing the accomplishments achieved. The project will have a construction cost of approximately $93 million and work will begin during the first quarter of 2023. The work will last for a period of two and a half years.”
FEMA’s Environmental and Historic Preservation (EHP) division provides specialized technical assistance to applicants on the historic and environmental compliance of projects to ensure they are aligned with applicable federal laws and executive orders. Through the environmental assessment, the agency determined that the Carraízo dredging project does not have an adverse impact on the environment.
FEMA considered and responded to substantial comments received during the public review period to inform the final decision on grant approval and project implementation. As part of NEPA’s regulatory requirements, on Aug. 10, 2021, FEMA conducted a public meeting in the Valle San Luis urbanization community center, at the request of Municipality of Caguas and several community leaders, to address questions and concerns about the dredging project.
For the evaluation, PRASA conducted sediment studies and documented the existing condition of the reservoir dikes, pipeline alignment and the area surrounding the project. Sediment samples were collected and analyzed to identify potential contaminants that could spread if the sediments were disturbed or became airborne during dredging activities. The studies determined that the Carraízo sediments are non-hazardous.