Agreement signed to start Caño Martín Peña restoration
The US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), the ENLACE Project Corporation for Caño Martín Peña and the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DNER) signed a Project Partnership Agreement (PPA) to begin construction on the Caño Martín Peña Ecosystem Restoration Project for which Congress assigned $163 million in January, through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) 2022.
The event took place at José “Pepe” Díaz park in the Parada 27 community and included the presence of community members, public officials, and members of Congress.
The implementation of the project includes dredging approximately 2.2 miles of the Caño Martin Peña canal; shoreline stabilization and erosion control features; and planting of approximately 35 acres of mangroves. Restoration of the canal will re-establish the tidal connection between the San José Lagoon and the San Juan Bay, which will improve dissolved oxygen levels and salinity stratification, increase biodiversity by restoring fish habitat and benthic conditions, and improve the functional value of mangrove habitat within the San Juan Bay Estuary.
“This step is the result of years of community work, of being present and well informed, persevering, not giving up and of adding supporters and building alliances with key stakeholders from all sectors,” said Lucy Cruz, President of the G-8, the organization that represents community leaders from the eight communities along the Caño.
“Our community strength has led us to this crucial step despite the precarious conditions in which we live, which are the result of the Caño’s environmental degradation and of the lack of action of many administrations. With this Project, we address the health and safety of our community,” she said.
The project will be implemented in three phases or construction contracts. The signing of the PPA allows USACE to grant the first construction contract for the project in the following months.
“As a public corporation we have worked consistently and diligently to steer this very complex Project in terms of public policy that includes multiple actors at the municipal, state and federal levels,” said Mario Núñez-Mercado, executive director of the ENLACE Project Corporation for Caño Martín Peña.
“In addition to providing environmental justice to the eight communities along the Caño Martín Peña, this Project increases the city’s environmental resiliency and restores a natural resource in the heart of San Juan for the benefit of Puerto Rico,” he said.
Congress authorized project in 2007 through Section 5127 of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). Since the approval of the project’s viability study in 2018, the Corporation and the Jacksonville District of USACE have been working on the pre-construction phase, engineering, and design, including studies and construction plans.
“The Caño Martin Pena project is an integral part of the San Juan Bay Estuary watershed, which includes [more than] 35% of the mangrove forest on the island,” said U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville Commander Col. James Booth, who was present at the signing.