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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

FEMA reaches milestone $30 billion in recovery assistance for PR

Roberto Clemente Walker Stadium in Carolina

By The Star Staff

Highways, parks, hospitals, educational institutions, water and electricity infrastructure are just some of the areas included in projects amounting to $30 billion in allocations from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) during the reconstruction of Puerto Rico after the passage of Hurricane Maria, to address other social and essential service facilities.

More than 10,600 projects cover various categories under Public Assistance funds to address infrastructure whose renovation will benefit the entire island.

“We celebrate the $30 billion milestone because this translates into an unprecedented and comprehensive reconstruction for this and future generations,” Federal Disaster Recovery Coordinator José G. Baquero said over the weekend. “Through these funds, Puerto Rico will experience a resilient recovery, so essential in planning for future atmospheric events.”

With more than $750 million to optimize their structures, the campuses of the University of Puerto Rico will continue to train world-class professionals and promote important academic research, and the Río Piedras Botanical Garden will provide rest and recreational areas for its visitors while serving as a living laboratory to study tropical plants and various bird species.

Another outstanding project in post-secondary education is the Puerto Rico Conservatory of Music, which is already under construction. Due to its historical value, the facilities of this specialized public university had a damage assessment that addressed the reconstruction of a 19th century building, to which FEMA allocated over $1.5 million.

Meanwhile, due to its importance for recreational and socioeconomic development, Las Cascadas Park in Aguadilla required close to $1 million to reopen its doors. The over 40-year-old park is one of the economic engines of the municipality.

In Carolina, meanwhile, Roberto Clemente Walker Stadium is already receiving the public following the allocation of nearly $18.4 million from the agency. This reconstruction not only benefits professional baseball and the home of the Gigantes, but also welcomes more than 100 teams for prep tournaments and children’s leagues.

Within road infrastructure, the Abra Honda Low Water Crossing in the municipality of San Sebastián is a project under construction that will benefit the community and that is focused on mitigating risks during future events. The Guajataca River washed away the previous road during Hurricane Maria and FEMA allocated close to $5.2 million to rebuild it; mitigation measures will raise the road with a single-span bridge above flood level in the area. The bridge will provide a direct route from the Guacio neighborhood to most of the jobs, hospitals and supermarkets located in the urban center of San Sebastián.

Both the island’s roads and bridges, as well as water and electricity services are the main resources to begin emergency response work. With that in mind, one of the agency’s newly assigned projects includes the dredging of the Carraízo Reservoir. At about $88.7 million, the funds for the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority will allow the removal of some 2.6 million cubic yards of sediment from the reservoir. The project -- which included an environmental assessment in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act -- will provide a larger water reserve for some 492,000 consumers in the municipalities of Caguas, Gurabo, Juncos, Las Piedras, San Juan, San Lorenzo and parts of Trujillo Alto. Carraízo provides around 90 million gallons of water daily to its customers.

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