San Juan, Puerto Rico., Jan. 31, 2023 – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District and the “Corporación Proyecto ENLACE del Caño Martín Peña” hosted a ground-breaking ceremony marking the start of the ecosystem restoration project in the Caño Martín Peña residential area.
After more than twenty years, dredging the finally begins as residents of the eight communities that make up Caño Martín Peña at the Area Recreativa Jose Pepe Diaz (Pepe Díaz Trail Park).
The ceremony marks the start of the first contract which includes approximately 40 acres of aquatic and terrestrial vegetation removal and establishes the way for the dredging and debris clearing. The project was authorized by Section 5127 of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2007 (P.L. 110-114), as amended by Section 402(e) of WRDA of 2020, (P.L. 116-260).
The implementation of the project includes dredging approximately 2.2 miles of the Caño Martin Peña (CMP) canal; shoreline stabilization and erosion control features; and planting of approximately 35 acres of mangroves. Restoration of the CMP will re-establish the tidal connection between the San Jose Lagoon and the San Juan Bay, which will improve dissolved oxygen levels and salinity stratification, increase biodiversity by restoring fish habitat and benthic conditions, and improve the functional value of mangrove habitat within the San Juan Bay Estuary.
“One year ago, I first met with ENLACE and community leaders to celebrate President Biden’s $163 million investment of Bipartisan Infrastructure Law in Caño Martín Peña Restoration. Now is the time for action,” said, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, Hon. Michael L. Connor.
Col. James Booth, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District commander, Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Pierluisi representatives from the local government, Puerto Rico Congresswoman Jenniffer González and San Juan Mayor, Miguel Romero all attended the event.
The implementation of the project includes dredging approximately 2.2 miles of the Caño Martin Peña canal; shoreline stabilization and erosion control features; and planting of approximately 35 acres of mangroves. Restoration of the Caño will re-establish the tidal connection between the San José Lagoon and the San Juan Bay.
“With the Army Corps of Engineers and the great team we have here in Puerto Rico, the leadership of Colonel Booth, we are on our way starting with vegetation removal and we are going to restore the estuary, revitalize eight communities and reestablish recreational access for the estuary,” said Connor.
Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Pierluisi thanked Assistant Secretary Connor and the US Army Corps of Engineers for the support and commitment to ensure the restoration of the Caño Martín Peña Restoration Ecosystem.
“I recognize the entire Corps of Engineers team led by Booth and Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González, and so many private and public stakeholders that have been key to get to this day. Thank you and Congratulations” said Pierluisi during his speech.
The vegetation removal contract was awarded in November of last year to Dorado Services, Inc. in the amount of $3,383,630.04. It will include the removal of approximately 40 acres of terrestrial and aquatic vegetation within and along the Caño Martín Peña banks.
Congresswoman Jenniffer González said since her arrival in Congress she has been working to make the dredging a reality.
“For decades, multiple generations of residents who have called the Caño Martin Peña their home have fought to restore the surrounding areas of the channel” said Congresswoman Gonzalez .
“Upon arriving in Congress, I pledged to continue fighting for this urgent project alongside ENLACE and the G-8 communities,” said Gonzalez. I advocated for the Caño’s selection as a new start project for construction, increased the authorization cost approved for the project from the original $150 million to over $255 million to prevent any potential-related cost issues, and supported USACE’s allocation of over $163 million.”
González recognized the effort and commitment of the community and Corps of Engineers. “Participating in this groundbreaking event for the first contract of the construction phase is truly an honor, and we can all proudly say, mission accomplished,” said González.
To further promote these efforts, the Corps of Engineers in December published a new Interim Environmental Justice Strategic Plan with the goal of enhancing relationships with tribal nations and disadvantaged and underserved communities. The plan will foundationally change how the Corps’ Civil Works program supports and communicates with partners in the future.
I commend the work of ENLACE and the G-8 and thank the Corps of Engineers team for their remarkable partnership in this and many other projects on the Island. I will continue to monitor the progress being made and keep working toward the full restoration of the Caño,” said González.
(The public can obtain news, updates and information from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District on the district’s website at https://www.saj.usace.army.mil/, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/JacksonvilleDistrict and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/JaxStrong.