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Camuy River Caves get $1.9M from FEMA for repairs

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has awarded nearly $1.9 million for two projects aimed at the Camuy River Caves National Park for damage repair after Hurricane María.

The funds, allocated to the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DNER), will be used to repair its administrative facilities and part of the cave systems, and will also be used to implement measures to mitigate risks from future weather events.

The Camuy River Caves National Park opened to the public in 1986 and is in the area known as the Northwest Plateau due to its large deposits of limestone sedimentary rock.

“Puerto Rico has one of the largest underground rivers in the world, key to the development of the Camuy River Caves, a place with great natural, cultural and educational value. This reconstruction will allow locals and visitors to enjoy this historic structure for many years, while we learn more about the species that inhabit it,” said Federal Disaster Recovery Coordinator José G. Baquero. 

In addition to its importance as a natural resource, the Camuy River Caves receive an average of 5,000 visitors per month during the high season. After its closure due to Hurricane María, the park partially reopened in 2021 with the Clara Cave. Visitors are advised to bring flashlights for the tours, as the hurricane caused excess water to enter the cave, submerging and damaging the entire electrical system.

The first project, with a federal investment of nearly $507,000, will replace the Clara Cave’s electrical system, as well as the boardwalk and the stairs leading to the Catedral Cave, among other repairs.

Meanwhile, the second project will focus on repairs to the park facilities, which include administrative offices, operational offices and gazebos. Some $1.3 million will go toward replacing parts of the infrastructure, lighting and electrical system.

Mitigation measures will strengthen the facilities with storm shutters and tension wires, waterproof walls and ceilings to prevent leaks due to heavy rain, and install geogrids to mitigate roadway surface loss, the federal agency stated.

“The allocation of these FEMA funds provides us with the opportunity to revitalize and preserve this natural gem, allowing it to continue being a world-renowned attraction that contributes to the economic growth and prosperity of the area,” said DNER Secretary Anaís Rodríguez.

“The Camuy River Caves National Park is an incomparable treasure, and its preservation is of vital importance to our island. Through these efforts, we are committed to ensuring its conservation and to allow present and future generations to enjoy its beauty and uniqueness,” she added.

Meanwhile, the executive director of Puerto Rico’s Central Office of Recovery, Reconstruction and Resiliency (COR3), Manuel Laboy, said that to begin the permanent recovery work, the DNER “will be able to request from COR3 a first advance available through the Working Capital Advance pilot program, which corresponds to 25% of the total obligation of this reconstruction project.”

“Once it demonstrates the use of these funds, it may request a second advance of money until it receives 50% of the obligation in advances,” he added.

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This story was written by our staff based on a press release.

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