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The $100 million Martín Peña Canal dredging project pending federal funds

Resident commissioner seeks congressional funding


May 6, 2005
Copyright © 2005 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

Resident Commissioner Luis Fortuño will seek additional funds to carry forward the plan to dredge and widen the Martín Peña Canal in Santurce, a project estimated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will cost $100 million.

Fortuño included a request for funds in the fiscal 2006 Energy & Development Appropriations package to be reviewed by the House Appropriations Energy & Water Development Subcommittee, chaired by Congressman David Hobson (R-Ohio) later this month, said Carmen Feliciano, an aide to the resident commissioner. The money would be used for a feasibility study for the project, to be carried out by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Feliciano said, given the tight federal budget restrictions, the congressional committee would only consider ongoing projects that already have received funding, which would include the Martín Peña Canal project. She declined to reveal the amount of funds being requested, but said the Commonwealth received $200,000 in fiscal 2004, which Army Corps of Engineers representatives have said were used for a reconnaissance report for the Martín Peña Ecosystem Restoration. No funds were available in fiscal 2005.

"The report and its recommendations were accepted and approved by reviewers and higher echelons in September 2004," for the dredging of the canal, according to a Corps of Engineers statement. The release indicated, "The reconnaissance report determined the Caño Martín Pena Ecosystem Restoration project has federal interest, which means it merits further study or going into preparation of a feasibility study."

The canal, once a broad waterway, over several decades has become continuously narrower because of the garbage dumped by rural dwellers who migrated to the San Juan area and squatted on its marshy banks. Newer arrivals to what became known as the Peninsula de Cantera community, in turn, squatted on the fill, dumping their garbage in the canal, which eventually became as narrow as a couple of meters in some places. The neighborhoods on the banks of the canal didn’t have sewer service and discharged their waste into the waterway, affecting the water and sediment quality in the San Juan Bay estuary system.

Dredging the Martín Peña Canal will be the final step in revitalizing the area, which requires decontaminating the lagoon that borders the Península de Cantera community, rehabilitating the San Juan Bay estuary system, and integrating it with the metro area’s mass transportation system.

Residents on both banks of the Martín Peña Canal are being relocated into several affordable-housing projects developed by Proyecto Península de Cantera as an alternative for the nearly 400 low-income families that must be relocated from Caño Martín Peña, to make way for the widening of the canal. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is currently negotiating a project feasibility cost-sharing agreement with the Puerto Rico Highway Authority, the project’s local sponsor. The feasibility study would be for ecosystem restoration and related purposes along the Martín Peña Canal in the San Juan metro area. "The feasibility report will evaluate different restoration alternatives and select the one with the highest cost-benefit ratio," indicates the Corps of Engineers in the prepared statement, which adds, "This will be the one recommended for implementation. The objective is to optimize the channel depth and width. Cost of preparing the Feasibility Report is estimated at $1.5 million and could take two to three years. It is cost-shared 50%-50%."

The next step of the project would be the preparation of plans and specifications, with designs and cost estimates for each plan. The cost would be shared 65% by federal sources and 35% local.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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