Funding locked in for dredging of Martín Peña Channel
By John McPhaul
Gov. Pedro Rafael Pierluisi Urrutia participated on Tuesday in the signing of an agreement that establishes the amount of federal and state funds for the dredging of the Martín Peña Channel (Caño Martín Peña), at a total cost of $254.5 million.
“This Caño Martín Peña restoration project will restore the effective connection between the [San José] Lagoon and [San Juan] Bay, improving water conditions, promoting biodiversity and enhancing the functional value of the mangroves in the bay estuary,” the governor said at a press conference. “In turn, this restoration of the Caño ecosystem will significantly improve conditions for the health and safety of the residents of the area by reducing their contact with highly contaminated water. For all these reasons, this project for the restoration of the Caño Martín Peña ecosystem is of vital importance for everyone.”
Of the total, the federal government will contribute $163.8 million and there will be a matching of non-federal funds of 35 percent. The agreement was signed by Michael Connor, the assistant secretary for civil works of the U.S.Army, on behalf of the federal government; José G. Barea Fernández, president of the Fundación del Proyecto ENLACE del Caño Martín Peña; and Anaís Rodríguez Vega, interim secretary of Natural and Environmental Resources, on behalf of the commonwealth government.
During the eight years that he was in Congress as resident commissioner, Pierluisi said, he made multiple efforts, with considerable success, in favor of the Martín Peña Channel dredging project. Previously, former Gov. Luis Fortuño, as resident commissioner, obtained the initial authorization from Congress to study the feasibility of the dredging, and currently Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colón has made efforts in favor of the important project for the adjoining communities and the environment.
The project contemplates dredging a 2.2-mile length of the channel at a width of 100 feet and depth of 10 feet. It will restore the ecosystem, build flood controls and stabilize associated channels. The project is designed to have a positive impact on the quality of interconnected bodies of water in the estuary, such as San José Lagoon, Los Corozos, Blasina Lagoon and San Juan Bay.
The project to dredge the channel, now a fetid waterway full of garbage and wastewater, has spent decades on the drawing board.