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US Army Corps of Engineers commissions Task Force VIPR for projects in US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico

by | Jan 31, 2024 | Federal Government, Military, Puerto Rico, United States Virgin Islands | 0 comments

By Mark Rankin and Luis Deya, DVIDS

The US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) South Atlantic Division (SAD) formally commissioned Task Force Virgin Islands Puerto Rico (TFVIPR) in a ceremony at the historic Fort Castillo San Cristóbal, in the heart of San Juan, on January 23.

Brig. Gen. Daniel Hibner, commander of the US Army Corps of Engineers, South Atlantic Division, welcomed guests and stakeholders in the region and lauded them for their unwavering support.

“On this day, we celebrate the full operating capability of this organization to support USACE programs in Puerto Rico (PR) and the US Virgin Islands (USVI),” said Hibner. “This is a rare occurrence to stand up a new organization, this is the most significant re-organization in the South Atlantic Division certainly in recent history, and what is even more rare is to do what we have done, accomplish what we have accomplished at the pace we have gone,” said Hibner, “I want to welcome you to USACE’s newest organization. You are the one door to the Corps for the critical and urgent missions in the Antilles.”

TFVIPR was created to organize and prioritize the demand of construction projects throughout the USVI and PR.

Jaime A. Pinkham, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, applauded the TFVIPR team for their implementation of construction projects in PR and the USVI.

“This Task Force is well aligned with the administrations delivery of resources across the states and territories,” said Pinkham. “Congratulations, General Hibner, on this day of celebration and commitment. I applaud you and Col. Charles Decker’s your efforts to get Task Force VIPR up and running so quickly.”

Hibner talked of how the US Army Corps of Engineers South Atlantic Division program has grown exponentially in terms of the number of projects and funding since 2017 and the integral duty of how Congress approved supplemental funding bills (BBA 18, DRSAA, and BIL) between 2018 and 2022 that provided powers and appropriations throughout USACE.

He said the increase was due to the impact of natural disasters on the island, as well as increased requirements in civil works (CW), military construction (MILCON), inter-agency and international support (IIS), and environment programs. Due to these increases the Corps took a new approach and commissioned Task Force US Virgin Islands Puerto Rico to meet the demand and speed of projects.

In April 2023, Lt. Gen. Scott A. Spellmon, 55th Chief of Engineers and the commanding general of the US Army Corps of Engineers approved the South Atlantic Division’s proposal to stand up Task Force Virgin Islands Puerto Rico.

On May 2023, Hibner and Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González-Colón (NPP, R), Puerto Rico’s sole representative in Congress, introduced the creation TFVIPR. Hibner named Col. Charles L. Decker, as the first commander for Task Force VIPR.

“I am happy to be here and extremely glad that USACE created an exclusive work group to attend reconstruction here in PR and USVI,” said González-Colón. “The volume of projects and budget is such that Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands needed a dedicated team to attend the workload, and therefore Task Force VIPR has been created. My team vows to continue to work closely with them so that our people can be safe in the face of natural disasters.”

SAD directed a review of regional workload that revealed significant workloads in the Jacksonville District Areas of Responsibility, particularly in Puerto Rico Civil Works. The review recommended the development of a task force to oversee programs and projects in PR and USVI.

Governor Albert Bryan Jr. (D) of the USVI expressed his gratitude for the USACE and, specifically, Task Force VIPR. He said economic growth and infrastructure expansion are priorities for the people of the USVI.

TFVIPR, with its own command and leadership structure under Decker, will focus on all current and future civil projects in their area of responsibility.

The US Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville, Antilles Area Office, which operates several specific projects in Puerto Rico, reports to the Jacksonville District, which is also under the South Atlantic Division. The ceremony marks the official transformation into the Task Force Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

Jacqueline Keizer, US Army Corps of Engineers, Task Force VIPR Deputy District Engineer for Project Management, said she is very excited that we have the opportunity to take this great program and make it extraordinary.

Our motto is “One team, one mission for PR. Task Force VIPR will have one focus, and that is all current and future Civil Works projects in PR and the USVI,” said Kaiser.

“Thank you, USACE, for being a key partner in the reconstruction efforts to build a stronger and resilient PR and, most of all, having a team that cares about their community,” said González-Colón.

TFVIPR will carry out all the civil works that USACE carries out and will carry out on the island. Other districts could collaborate with the works in PR, such as Jacksonville District, which will continue to be in charge of cleaning up Culebra under the program of sites previously used by the Department of Defense (FUDS) and the completion of studies on coastal erosion.

Current Project work sites in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands:

  • San Juan – Flood Risk Management Project Río Puerto Nuevo – $1.5 billion
  • San Juan- Improvements to San Juan Harbor- $45.5 million
  • San Juan- Ecosystem Restoration Project-Caño Martín Peña-$163.2 million
  • San Juan- Army Reserve Energy Resilience and Conservation Investment Program (ERCIP) Puerto Nuevo $9.6 million
  • San Juan -construction of FDA facility $10 million.
  • Dorado, Toa Baja y Toa Alta- Flood Risk Management Project Río de La Plata- – $485.2 million.
  • Arecibo – Flood Risk Management Project Río Grande de Arecibo- $174.1 million.
  • Gurabo y Caguas -Río Grande de Loíza – FY24 Expressed Capability
  • Aguada y Aguadilla – Flood Risk Management Project Río Culebrinas -$26.4 million.
  • Ciales- Flood Risk Management Project Río Grande de Manatí – $14.8 million.
  • Guayanilla- Flood Risk Management Project Río Guayanilla -$60.6 million
  • Aibonito- Río Aibonito- $50,000 for studies
  • Santa Isabel-Rio Descalabrado- pending.
  • Guaynabo – 4 reconstruction projects on Fort Buchanan-$63 million
  • Salinas- Army Reserve National Guard Joint Training Center -$291 million
  • Salinas- Río Nigua – $47.8 million
  • Mayagüez -Río Guanajibo- $107.1 million.
  • Quebradillas- reconstruction of the Guajataca Dam- pending.

Since 2017 USACE has completed the following projects:

  • Fort Buchanan Access Control Point – $10,274,721.12
  • Fort Buchanan Apparatus Building- $2,191,640.38
  • Fort Buchanan Physical Fitness Annex – $1,717,442.38
  • Aguadilla Army Reserve Center- $19,674,589.07
  • Rio Puerto Nuevo Cont 2D Walls-$24,059,396.00
  • East Levee Repair (Barceloneta)-$3,219,090.99
  • Guajataca Dam Stage 2 Risk Reduction Measure- $5,815,005.41
  • Guajataca Dam Sluice Gate Stem Replacement- $787,504.50
  • Guajatca Dam Spillway Channel Reinforcement-$17,804,766.14
  • Rio Yauco Temporary Levee Repair- $2,283,888.39
  • Guajatca Dam Hydraulic System Replacement- $1,106,467.55
  • Salud Creek Streambank Protection- $1,059,800.90
  • Loiza Shoreline Protection- $3,586,866.55
  • Arecibo Harbor & Mayaguez Harbor O&M- $6,548,412.00
  • Rio Anton Ruiz Restoration- $3,782,216.29



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