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USACE creates project Task Force VIPR for USVI, Puerto Rico

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) recently introduced a new task force that aims to speed up construction of the ongoing civilian works in Puerto Rico. 

Task Force U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico (Task Force VIPR) was created to organize and prioritize the demand of construction projects across the islands, the entity stated.  

USACE, South Atlantic Division commander, Brig. Gen. Daniel Hibner, and Puerto Rico’s resident commissioner in Washington, D.C., Jenniffer González-Colón, announced the establishment of the task force during a recent press conference.

Hibner said he directed the establishment of Task Force VIPR to focus solely on the “implementation of construction projects in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The extraordinary size, complexity and requirement to put these projects in place will take extraordinary measures.”  

These works are the product of more than $3 billion in federal funds, the largest sum of allocations USACE has received in its history for projects on the island, and which were supported by the congresswoman, most of them under the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018.

USACE, South Atlantic Division, oversees construction in this area of operation. Recent natural disasters on the islands have increased requirements in the civil works, military construction, inter-agency, international support and environment programs. The construction program has drastically grown in terms of the number of projects and funding, the agency stated.

Congress passed supplemental funding bills (BBA 18, DRSAA, and BIL) between 2018 and 2022 that provided new appropriations throughout USACE.  

Hibner; Lt. Gen. Scott A. Spellmon, USACE chief of engineers; and Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Michael Connor will be overseeing the progression of projects. USACE Lead Engineer Jacqueline Keizer is heading the group until U.S. Army Col. Kelcey Shaw arrives in July as the new commander for Task Force VIPR.  

They will report directly to the South Atlantic Division commander, they confirmed.

“I recognize the strategic importance of this [multibillion-dollar] program and as the South Atlantic Division commander I am committed to the success of Task Force VIPR and this program,” Hibner said. “This effort has the full support of Lt. Gen Spellmon as the chief of engineers and Connor, assistant secretary of the Army for Civil Works.”

The new approach of establishing the task force is unprecedented in two main areas, the speakers said. This is the first time a commander with the rank of colonel will command a district-size task force in Puerto Rico, and the program has more projects and more funding now than in the entire history of USACE engagement in Puerto Rico.

The task force’s leadership structure will focus on all current and future civil projects in their area of operation, the representatives said.

Since 2017, the USACE South Atlantic Division’s portfolio of programs has increased in terms of number of projects and overall scheduled obligations each fiscal year. These increases resulted from natural disasters as well as requirements growth across Civil Works (CW), Military Construction (Milcon), Interagency & International Support (IIS) and environmental programs.

The Jacksonville District, Antilles Area Office, will continue to support Puerto Rico military and other projects; however, Task Force VIPR will report directly to the South Atlantic Division commander as part of the new structure, which accelerates decision-making, the agency explained.

“I’m excited that together we have the opportunity to take this great program and make it extraordinary,” said Jackie Keiser, deputy project management of the task force. “One team, one mission for Puerto Rico.”

The Task Force is currently identifying and seeking professionals with expertise and skills for various engineering positions. There will be future job positions advertised and contractors announced to meet requirements, officials said.

The task force will carry out works in Puerto Rico and the USVI, including the following work planned for Puerto Rico:

  • San Juan — Flood Risk Management Project, Río Puerto Nuevo ($1.5 billion)
  • San Juan — Improvements to San Juan Harbor ($45.5 million)
  • San Juan — Ecosystem Restoration Project, Caño Martín Peña ($163.2 million)
  • San Juan — Army Reserve Energy Resilience and Conservation Investment Program, Puerto Nuevo ($9.6 million)
  • San Juan — Construction of FDA facility ($10 million)
  • Dorado, Toa Baja and Toa Alta — Flood Risk Management Project, Río de La Plata ($485.2 million)
  • Arecibo — Flood Risk Management Project, Río Grande de Arecibo ($174.1 million)
  • Gurabo and Caguas — Río Grande de Loíza
  • Aguada and Aguadilla — Flood Risk Management Project, Río Culebrinas ($26.4 million)
  • Ciales — Flood Risk Management Project, Río Grande de Manatí ($14.8 million)
  • Guayanilla — Flood Risk Management Project, Río Guayanilla ($60.6 million)
  • Aibonito — Río Aibonito ($50,000 for studies)
  • Santa Isabel — Río Descalabrado (Pending)
  • Guaynabo — Four projects in Fort Buchanan ($63 million)
  • Salinas — Army Reserve National Guard Joint Training Center ($291 million)
  • Salinas — Río Nigua ($47.8 million)
  • Mayagüez — Río Guanajibo ($107.1 million)
  • Quebradillas — Reconstruction of the Guajataca Dam (Pending)

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

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