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USDA assigns $19.8M for watershed infrastructure projects in Puerto Rico/USVI

The US Department of Agriculture will invest $19.8 million in two infrastructure projects in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, as part of the federal government’s implementation of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

In Puerto Rico, the agency will provide Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations (WFPO) Program funds for the Isabela Irrigation District that comprises 377 miles of channels that provide potable and agricultural water across Isabela, Costa Sur and the Lajas Valley.

The channels were built in the early 1900’s as part of the infrastructure development for the sugarcane industry, and consist of water reservoirs and channels, mains, and laterals. This infrastructure is still used and is a key component of the agricultural development of the island, but it is losing water, agency officials said.

“We will assess the real needs of the area’s agricultural industry to ensure that farmers benefit from irrigation infrastructure improvements. WFPO program funds will be used for a Preliminary Investigation Feasibility Report (PIFR), planning, design and construction for Isabela’s irrigation channel repairs and modernization,” agency officials said.

“The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to rebuild our infrastructure, create good-paying jobs and build new economic opportunity here in the Caribbean Area,” said Luis Cruz-Arroyo, State Conservationist for USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

“Our watershed programs help communities rebuild after natural disasters and prepare for future events. These projects exemplify why this historic investment in our watersheds was needed and the adeptness of our agency to act swiftly,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Bordeaux Farming Community on St. Thomas will also get federal funding, as it requires irrigation water resources to continue and increase its farming operations.

“St. Thomas rainfall averages around 40 inches/year, which poses a challenge for community agriculture. Interagency support is needed to define solutions and build permanent infrastructure to provide a reliable source of water for the Bordeaux farming community to meet the USVI Agriculture Department’s goal to increase the amount of locally grown food and improve food security,” the USDA stated.

WFPO program funds will be used to conduct a Preliminary Investigation Feasibility Report (PIFR) for irrigation water quality and quantity improvements for Estate Bordeaux, St. Thomas.

The USDA will invest $420 million in 132 infrastructure projects in 31 states including the two in the Caribbean.

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

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