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Puerto Rico Loses Out On Water Bills

Acevedo Vila wins some but loses others, even some in Bush administration’s proposed budget


December 4, 2003
Copyright © 2003 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

The U.S. Congress approved the Energy & Water Appropriations bill for fiscal year 2004 (which began Oct. 1), and it includes $18.1 million for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects in Puerto Rico. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the bill is $5.7 million less than the Bush administration had requested.

"Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo failed to get the funds in President Bush’s budget proposal and another $100,000 he had sought, although the bill appropriates more funds for water projects than the Bush administration had sought," said Jeffrey Farrow, co-chairman of the White House Interagency Task Force on Puerto Rico and a veteran Capitol Hill watcher.

Farrow pointed out that the bill includes $4.6 billion for Army Corps of Engineers water projects, which he said was $400 million more than the administration had requested. He indicated that some members of Congress were able to get increases in funding for projects the Bush administration had proposed for addition to the bill or got whole projects added to the measure.

"The single biggest water-projects loss for Puerto Rico is coming from another bill," said Farrow. "Acevedo’s loss in this bill was $8 million for a special grant for a water treatment plant to improve the quality of the drinking water for the 1.5 million residents of the San Juan metro area as was proposed by President Bush."

"Acevedo has expressed confidence that EPA [U.S. Environmental Protection Agency] will loan [as opposed to grant] the funds to Puerto Rico," said Farrow. "Calderon has said the Puerto Rico government would provide the funding if Congress or the EPA doesn’t."

The Energy & Water Appropriations bill also would assign $12 million to dredge the Puerto Nuevo River, but that is $4.5 million less than the Bush administration had proposed, said Farrow. It also includes $4 million to prevent flooding in Ponce related to the Portugues and Bucana rivers, which is $1.2 million less than the Bush administration had requested.

Farrow indicated that two smaller projects were fully funded: $1.1 million to control flooding of the La Plata River and $1 million to control flooding of the Arecibo River.

But Acevedo Vila didn’t get $100,000 of the $300,000 he had sought to study the feasibility of dredging the Martin Peña Canal in San Juan.

Should have been a slam dunk

"Getting the funds that the Republican president had proposed to the Republican-controlled Congress for Puerto Rico in both bills should have been a slam dunk," said Farrow. "Acevedo doesn’t have the clout, or he didn’t work hard enough or pay enough attention, and others in Congress took the money away for projects in their states."

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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