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FEMA working on 35 flood-mitigation projects in Puerto Rico worth $122M

The Puerto Rico Planning Board has confirmed that local floods represent billions in losses and put at risk some 200,000 residences in flood-prone areas. To reduce the effects of these natural events, the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Hazard Mitigation Grant Program is working on 35 projects with an investment of $122 million, the agency announced.

“Some of these projects also address equity and climate change, since they aim to ensure that all people have the same protections regardless of the area in which they reside, as well as incorporate new regulations for the future, taking into account what the trends in climate change reveal,” said Federal Disaster Recovery Coordinator José G. Baquero.

Climate change has been linked to erosion, landslides, floods, and other catastrophes.

FEMA cited Raúl Santiago-Bartolomei, assistant professor of the Graduate School of Planning of the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras Campus, who encourages mitigation as a measure to prevent the hydrological damage affecting the island, particularly those associated with the impacts of hurricanes María and Fiona.

For residents and retailers in the Piel Canela Boulevard area in Coamo, measures to address flood risks include a larger capacity stormwater drainage system. The first phase of the project represents more than $340,000 for engineering services and topographic and geotechnical studies to strengthen this area, the federal agency said.

Coamo Mayor Juan Carlos García-Padilla said this area is the most vital in the city in terms of visitors and is the industrial, commercial and sports hub of the municipality, with a large concentration of factories, restaurants, recreational facilities and medical offices, among others.

“This project serves to correct the management of storm water runoff that comes down from different parts of the town and falls in this lower sector, which is Piel Canela Boulevard,” the mayor said.

“These funds give us the opportunity to solve the problem and avoid flooding in the future that will affect the economy, sports and the lives of those who pass through the area,” García-Padilla added.

Likewise, nearly $279,000 was allocated to install piping in the Santa María community in San Germán, of which $28,000 was approved for the initial phase. This project seeks to prevent erosion and reduce the risk of property loss in the event of rain from natural disasters by installing 869 feet of corrugated metal pipe inside an existing ditch.

“The impact of FEMA funds on channel repair in this community is extremely positive. For years they have suffered from channel erosion and have had safety, life and property put at risk,” said San Germán Mayor Virgilio Olivera-Olivera.

“Through the project, this problem will be solved, and the community will finally be able to live in peace and feel safe in their homes. In addition, the residents of the area will feel much calmer every time hurricane season begins in Puerto Rico,” he said.

Meanwhile, Central Office of Recovery, Reconstruction and Resiliency (COR3) Executive Manuel Laboy, said considering the importance of the development of these projects and the need for funds from the applicants, COR3 extended the Working Capital Advance (WCA) pilot program for the works under the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program.

“I call on those government, municipal and nonprofit entities that don’t have the money to initiate these mitigation projects to apply for the advance available through the WCA and get these developments that are vital to building greater resilience to future disasters on track,” he said.

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

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