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Urban Waters Partnership

Achievements and Accomplishments in Caño Martín Peña


Defined path for Israel Bitumul North project

Working with the Municipality of San Juan (MSJ), the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (PRASA) and Caño Martín Peña ENLACE Project Corporation (ENLACE) a path has been defined to ensure progress in the Israel Bitumul North project which consists of three main components:

  • Potable and wastewater system under the responsibility of PRASA
  • Stormwater system under the responsibility of the MSJ
  • Walkway under the responsibility of Enlace

Puerto Rico Department of Environmental and Natural Resources (DNER) State Revolving Fund (SRF) program awarded a $9million subsidy to the MSJ for development of the first phase of this project. Construction should begin in 2020.

International Conference Hosted by Enlace

Enlace hosted an international conference in May 2019 to address land ownership issues faced by communities around the globe. Community leaders from Brazil, Africa and the Caribbean shared experience faced regarding land ownership and community integrity in the face of urban and economic development pressures.


Relocation of Borinquen Potable Water Line

The Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (PRASA) will be receiving funds from Enlace that will allow the start of construction, of the Borinquen Potable Water Relocation. This is a critical project for the dredging of the channel.

Urban Waters Relief Program

EPA provided funds to the San Juan Bay Estuary Program (SJBEP) to develop Urban Water Program Relief Efforts in the of the San Juan Bay Estuary Watershed. The project is a relief and community support endeavor designed to address immediate Hurricane María relief efforts, as well as, short and medium term restoration plans in specific communities identified within the 97 square miles of the urban estuarine ecosystem known as San Juan Bay Estuary in Puerto Rico.

Enlace secures SRF funding for Comprehensive Infrastructure Master Plan.

Engagement with the State Revolving Fund program at the Puerto Rico Environmental Quality Board (EQB) allowed Enlace to receive a $3.3 million subsidy funding for the development of infrastructure projects that include green infrastructure interventions and plans derived from the Smart Growth Implementation Assistance Program project developed with EPA with the engagement of Enlace and CMP community.


Three community centers benefit from solar power installations

As a response to the impact of Hurricane Maria in September 2017, solar panels and batteries were donated and installed by Resilient Power Puerto Rico at three community centers to provide basic services to residents after the Island was left without electric power.

Urban Resiliency to Extreme Events (URex)

The Urban Water Ambassador for the Caño Martín Peña has engaged in collaboration with USFS and Arizona State University in the development of the URex initiative and how to address challenges faced in Caño Martín Peña communities. As part of this work the Urban Water Ambassador participated in the URex’s Annual All Hands Meeting (March 20-22, 2017 in NYC) discussing the experience of the Caño Martín Peña.


Caño Martín Peña Feasibility Study Approval and commitment from partners

The Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works approved the Caño Martín Peña Feasibility Study determining it was economically and environmentally feasible. A memorandum of understanding committing USACE, EPA, Puerto Rico Government, and ENLACE to work collaboratively to address dredging and dredged material management needs for the canal was also signed as well as a design agreement between USACE and Enlace to proceed with Planning, Engineering and Design phase.

Collaborative Agreement between Small Business Administration and Enlace

The Small Business Administration (SBA), signed of collaborative agreement with Enlace for assistance in the promotion and development of small businesses within the Caño Martin Peña communities.

Caño Martín Peña Community Land Trust - Winner of United Nations World Habitat Award

The Caño Martín Peña Community Land Trust was selected as Winner of the 2015 United Nations World Habitat Award. This award recognizes innovative and replicable initiatives in the area of housing. The award will be conferred during the Third World Habitat Conference to be held in Ecuador, later in 2016. Urban Waters partners ENLACE and the Land Trust Board worked with the the government of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico to give this land trust new ways to ensure that the revitalization of the channel does not lead to residents being priced or pushed out of their homes. Finally, congratulations to the eight communities living around the Caño whose leadership and dedication were so critical to this accomplishment!  

Read more about the Land Trust and this award here. Exit

View a video about this effort on YouTube. Exit


USACE Caño Martín Peña Ecosystem Restoration Project:

After more than 5 years of studies and negotiations the USACE published for public comment the draft Feasibility Study and Environmental Impact Statement for the dredging of the Caño Martín Peña. This is a project that has 2007 WRDA Congressional Authorization to restore tidal connectivity between the San José Lagoon and the San Juan Bay, removing over 800,000 cubic yards of sediments, debris and trash; reducing water residence time; improving essential fish habitat conditions and mobility of fish throughout the San Juan Bay Estuary; and boosting biodiversity. Two public meetings were held on October 14, 2015 to receive comments from the general public. The public comment period ends October 26, 2015.

National Estuaries Program Annual meeting 

The Association of National Estuaries Program will hold its annual conference in Puerto Rico from December 2-4, 2015. The conference’s main theme “From Citizen Science to Estuarine Hybridity” will showcase the San Juan Bay Estuary and the Caño Martín Peña.

Soil Shop Fair

A Soil Shop Fair was conducted by EPA and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) on October 3, 2015 in the Buena Vista community. The PR Department of Health, the College of Medical Technologists of PR, and the UPR Agricultural Extension Program were also participants of the activity.  =The purpose of the fair was to disseminate the results of the study on bioavailability of metals (Arsenic and Lead) in Martín Peña urban gardens, conduct Lead (Pb) soil, and blood screenings. Workshops were offered on health and best management practices for urban farming.

Economic Benefit Assessment

A close collaboration between Enlace, the UN Global Cities Compact, and the RMIT University in Australia is enabling the commencement of the Economic Benefit Assessment Study of the dredging and revitalization of the Caño Martín Peña. The purpose of the study is to validate and further define the socio-economic benefits of the Caño Martín Peña dredging, which will improve quality of life conditions for residents and stimulate economic activity and competitiveness of the Metropolitan Area. This initial stage will consist of community surveys, coordinated through Enlace, to compile socio-economic information, which will be analyzed by RMIT University professors. 


This initiative is focused on the restoration of the Martin Pena tidal channel’s (CMP’s) urban waters. The project will support water pollution prevention education and awareness activities in support of water pollution reduction. As a result of ENLACE’s Urban Waters initiative there will be more grassroots empowerment, democratic participation, direct action, and stewardship in the protection and restoration of the urban waters at the heart of these communities.

Technical Studies

Over 18 technical studies needed to comply with environmental regulations for the dredging of MPC have been completed.  $150 M for the environmental restoration of the MPC was authorized by Congress through the Water Resources Development Act of 2007, conditioned to the Secretary of the Army’s approval of the Report.

Reduced Sewage 

Through enforcement actions against the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (PRASA) EPA was able to significantly reduce the flow of sewage from the financial district into the MPC.  PRASA has designed and will construct a sewer system for the Financial District (currently a combined ewer). Construction is scheduled to start in 2016.  The dry weather flow has been diverted to the Puerto Nuevo Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant.  During wet weather, only a portion of the flow reaches the MPC after chlorine disinfection.

Clean-up Project

Surface debris clean-up activities, which resulted in the removal of over 885 tons of debris and the recuperation of over 1,500 pounds of recyclable material, have been completed.  Over 500 volunteers and government employees participated in these activities.

Community Engagement

As a result of understanding the unhealthy state of the MPC, residents have understood the need for its dredging and have become the Project’s strongest allies.  Almost 300 household relocations have been completed.