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Gov’t announces start of funding program for mitigation projects

The Puerto Rico Housing Department and the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (PRASA) signed an inter-agency agreement that gives way to a $35 million investment in two water utility projects, while inaugurating the Risk Mitigation Grant Program, the first of nine that will be launched this year with CDBG-MIT funds.

Through the program, which matches mitigation funds with those from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, PRASA intends to install four power generators for the La Plata Lake dam that will reduce the interruption of drinking water service to 369,000 people, in the event of a failure in the power system.

In addition, the public corporation will develop a water treatment plant for the population of the municipality of Salinas, which is currently susceptible to drought events.

“The important thing about this program is that it allows these funds to be used to advance projects and the total cost is applied to the global matching of the state contribution that includes all projects under the FEMA Risk Mitigation Grant program,” said Gov. Pedro Pierluisi.

“That is, instead of having to contribute to each project separately, it is accrued for the total,” said Pierluisi.

“In this way, this particular program will allow us to develop infrastructure projects that had not been possible before and that will address the vulnerabilities that we have suffered and strengthen our environment for the benefit of the people of Puerto Rico,” said Pierluisi.

“The Housing Department will be managing this program in coordination with the Central Office of Recovery, Reconstruction and Resiliency (COR3), to ensure compliance with all the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and FEMA requirements,” said Pierluisi.

“These are the first of many other projects that are being evaluated to be carried out through this program,” said Pierluisi, noting that the list includes “millions worth” of PRASA projects, such as improvements to dams, wastewater plants, and optimization of the drinking water management and distribution system, as well as flood control projects.

The list includes projects to improve the electrical system, critical infrastructure and others that help mitigate the impact of natural disasters in Puerto Rico that will be evaluated.

HUD allocated $8.3 million for mitigation activities and assistance to the government of Puerto Rico under the CDBG-MIT Program.

According to the Action Plan prepared by the local agency, the focus of the HMGP-MIT program, is to complete mitigation projects currently administered by FEMA.

“This program is a great opportunity to develop infrastructure projects that, otherwise, probably would not be possible,” said Puerto Rico Housing Secretary William Rodriguez.

“Housing believes that the natural disasters of the past years have exposed vulnerabilities that will now be addressed under this and the rest of the mitigation programs that we intend to launch before the end of the year,” said Rodriguez.

Meanwhile, PRASA Executive President Doriel Pagán said the water utility’s “goal is to maximize financing opportunities to continue to improve our infrastructure in a resilient manner for the benefit of our customers.”

The federal government’s contribution, disbursed through FEMA, typically consists of 75% and requires that the receiving entity, in this case PRASA, contribute 25%.

This new program allows Housing to use CDBG-MIT funds to cover 100% of strategically selected projects between COR3 and Housing, which represent 25% of the global matching required for all FEMA Program projects.

The signed agreement is the first investment of mitigation funds to be made by Housing through the program that has a budget of $1 billion, and from which organizations and state agencies may also benefit.

Under this program, Housing will attend to large-scale infrastructure projects.

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

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