Funding hike for Martín Peña Channel dredging clears US House

By John McPhaul

Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colón announced the approval in the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this week of legislation that increases the amount of authorized funds for the dredging of Caño Martín Peña (Martín Peña Channel).

“This is a great advance as the budget limit is increased to $232,430,000 to continue developing this project that is so important for the communities surrounding Caño,” the resident commissioner said Wednesday in a written statement.

The draft Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), approved in Wednesday’s session, also includes language to address the projects for flood control in several other island rivers -- Río Grande de Manatí, Río Guayanilla and Río Culebrinas. The Senate approved its version of the legislation, which requires a conference process to reconcile both versions, González Colón said.

“The projects of the Caño Martín Peña, the Culebrinas River, the Grande de Manatí River and the Guayanilla River are crucial for the development of infrastructure on the island and the safety of the residents where these projects are located,” the resident commissioner said. “I thank my colleagues in the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee of the Lower House for accepting my measures to promote these projects; I will continue working from Congress so that Puerto Rico has a safe and resilient water infrastructure.”

In the 2018 Bipartisan Budget Law, the resident commissioner raised funds to follow up on various water body management projects being carried out by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) on the island. Among them were $3 million for the Río Guayanilla, $400,000 for the Río Culebrinas in Aguada and Aguadilla, and $1.2 million for the Río Grande de Manatí in Ciales, for the study stage of the flood control projects, all three of which are pending the completion of the chief engineer’s report.

The WRDA bill approved Wednesday includes expedited attention to the three flood control projects.

WRDA gives USACE authority to carry out water resources and infrastructure development studies and projects, as well as operational reforms. The WRDA legislation authorizes nationwide, including Puerto Rico, 35 feasibility studies by USACE and the construction of 34 other proposed projects that are pending chief engineer’s reports.

Projects include works to improve or allow navigation, flood damage reduction, hurricane and storm damage reduction, shoreline protection and ecosystem restoration.

Operational reforms include expanding the agency’s flexibility in calculating cost-benefit for its projects, which can be of great advantage to rural and disadvantaged communities.

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