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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

USDA investing $1 million to repair 2 dams in Añasco

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack

By The Star Staff

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing about $1 million to fix dams in Añasco as part of a package of more than $166.5 million to be disbursed in 108 infrastructure projects under the bipartisan infrastructure law known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).

The announcement was made by President Joe Biden and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a statement last Friday.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is working with local communities in 23 states, including Puerto Rico, to invest in new dam and flood prevention projects and in repairs on existing watershed infrastructure, which are all part of USDA’s broader national infrastructure investment.

Throughout this first round of the IIJA bill implementation, NRCS has prioritized projects in communities heavily impacted by natural disasters as well as historically underserved and limited-resource communities.

The IIJA, signed in November by President Biden, provided $918 million for NRCS watershed programs, which includes the Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations Program, Watershed Rehabilitation Program (REHAB) and Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) Program. Through NRCS watershed programs, NRCS works with local, eligible sponsors including state government agencies, local municipalities, conservation districts and federally recognized tribal organizations.

In the Caribbean region, the IIJA is funding a REHAB project to repair the Ajies and Daguey dams in Añasco, which were severely damaged during Hurricane Maria in September 2017.

IIJA also provides EWP funds for communities to respond to natural disasters. NRCS will continue to assist communities as it receives disaster requests.

“The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to building back better, and this starts with our infrastructure,” Vilsack said. “Protecting our watersheds and saving lives is paramount. These investments in our watershed programs will provide much needed support for communities to build resilience in the face of climate change. We can extend financial assistance to underserved communities that live in constant fear of flooding, help with the effects of severe weather events, and put systems in place that will ensure a climate-resilient future to help communities thrive in the years to come.”

Since the bill was signed into law, NRCS has hosted training webinars focused on educating potential sponsors and historically underserved communities about the funding opportunities provided by the new legislation. NRCS conducted an assessment of current needs for watershed protection and flood prevention work. The assessment supported the establishment of priorities that focused funding on the most critical and highest priority projects for improving the nation’s land and water resources.

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