The Governor of Puerto Rico, Pedro Pierluisi (NPP, D), participated in the signing of two agreements between the Puerto Rico Department of Housing, the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (PRASA), and the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA). With a combined investment exceeding $800 million from mitigation funds, both agreements aim to strengthen critical infrastructure and ensure the well-being of the population in various areas of the islands.
“Our administration is maximizing the use of federal mitigation funds, both from the federal Housing Department and FEMA, to realize projects that impact the quality of life of our people while preventing future damage in case of hurricanes, earthquakes, or other emergencies. The first agreement is between Housing and Electric Power and is related to the seismic retrofitting of the Patillas Dam. The Department of Housing has set aside $558 million from CDBG-MIT funds to cover all the matching required for FEMA mitigation projects. Improvements to the Patillas Dam will be carried out in two phases over a seven-year period,” the governor explained regarding the project that enhances the strategic infrastructure serving around 100,000 citizens.
The chief executive added that “the Department of Housing is also signing an agreement with the Aqueduct and Sewer Authority to support the Water Supply Improvement Project – Bauta South Region. This project impacts the towns of Villalba, Juana Díaz, Ponce, and Coamo, which receive drinking water from both underground wells and surface sources. Additionally, the expansion of the Toa Vaca Treatment Plant or the construction of a new water treatment plant in that area, as well as new pipelines for the areas currently served by underground wells, are under consideration.”
Puerto Rico Housing Secretary William Rodríguez Rodríguez commented that “these two important agreements with PRASA and PREPA address two instances of utmost importance for a large segment of our population. The mitigation funds being allocated for these projects come precisely to address future potential situations and thus mitigate damages while making our islands more resilient. Under the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP), we will continue to address other significant projects that we will announce soon.”
This renovation is structured in two essential phases: design and engineering, followed by construction. The completion of this project will reinforce the dam’s capacity to withstand seismic challenges.
“With this project, we will provide the Patillas Dam with the necessary structural improvements to increase its stability and seismic resistance. This will result in greater safety for all residents near the dam and greater reliability in the water service we provide to farmers, the Aqueduct and Sewer Authority, and other customers. We appreciate the technical and financial support from the Federal Bureau of Reclamation, FEMA, and the Department of Housing, respectively,” said PREPA Executive Director Josué A. Colón Ortiz.
Likewise, the agreement between Housing and PRASA allocates $257 million for the construction of a tunnel from the Bauta River in the northern basin to the hydrographic basin of the Toa Vaca River in the south of the main island. This project aims to divert water from the Bauta River to a tributary of the Toa Vaca River that flows into the Toa Vaca Reservoir, thereby increasing the safe yield of the Toa Vaca Reservoir from 16 MGD to 29.9 MGD. Furthermore, the expansion of the existing Toa Vaca Water Treatment Plant and the installation of new pipelines for the areas currently served by underground wells are proposed.
PRASA Executive President Doriel Pagán Crespo stated, “I thank Governor Pedro Pierluisi for this much-needed allocation for the southern area and for his vision for the development of this project. The work we will undertake with this investment will bring progress and resilience to the subscribers who rely on the Toa Vaca Reservoir. Likewise, it will be a sustainable project that will serve as a water supply source in the face of climate change.”
This project will mitigate short and long-term damage to the southern region of Puerto Rico, providing a better water supply for this region during drought events while supporting the restoration of the South Coast Aquifer.
Rodríguez Rodríguez added that “these actions are vital to ensure a constant water supply to our communities. We face challenges related to over-demand and drought, and with these initiatives, we are taking proactive measures to solve them in the long term.”
Given the complexity and scope of both infrastructure projects, it is estimated that they could take up to seven years to complete and will bring the benefits of increased water supply reliability to the southern region of Puerto Rico during drought events and the restoration of our aquifers.