Ongoing Projects in Caño Martín Peña
Previous initiatives to rehabilitate the Caño Martín Peña (CMP) overlooked the relationship between environmental degradation and poverty. Past land use proposals included community displacement as a common denominator. However, most residents of the designated relocation areas do not want to leave their neighborhoods. The CMP environmental restoration project, through its dredging and other infrastructure works, depends on the rehabilitation of existing homes and the development of new housing. The project was designed to emphasize that whenever possible, housing opportunities within the communities must be provided for those families wishing to remain in the area. Communities also want continued access to the CMP once the channel is dredged, and to benefit from the investment made in their communities to promote entrepreneurship. Economic development and education are important concerns. Residents will continue their participation in the decision-making process and the implementation phase. The goal of the CMP project is to restore the health of the ecosystem while attaining social and environmental justice. The project will improve connectivity within the Estuary by 61% and will represent significant ecological uplift. It is probably the most important comprehensive development initiative currently underway in Puerto Rico. Some of the project components are:
- Channel Dredging: To re-establish the hydraulic connection between the San José Lagoon and the San Juan Bay by dredging the CMP to a width of 150 feet and a depth of 10 feet. The project will include conservation areas for mangrove wetlands as well as waterfront plazas to provide continued access to the channel. The estimated 700,000 cubic yards of dredged material will be used to fill currently anoxic depressions within the adjacent San José Lagoon, thus increasing the environmental benefits of the dredging.
- Relocation of families: Over 2,300 families will need to be relocated. One thousand (1,000) families are in the right-of-way or footprint of the proposed channel. Of these, 300 have already been relocated. 1,300 new public housing units will need to be constructed. Community Block Grant Disaster Recovery Funds, as well as Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Mitigation Funds, could be a good fit to advance some of these projects.
- Wastewater and Drinking Water Infrastructure: Several sewer lines, including the Rexach Avenue 66” diameter sewer line and the San José Community 66” diameter sewer line, will need to be relocated. A sewer system is needed in portions of the area. A drinking water line, known as the Borinquen 36” line, must also be relocated. The relocation cost of these lines is estimated at $35 M. A vacuum sewer system has already been constructed at the Barrio Obrero Marina sector at a cost of over $6.5M.
- Other Infrastructure Projects: In addition to relocating/constructing new wastewater and drinking water lines, new streets, stormwater sewer systems, and electric power lines, among other utilities, must be constructed.
- Improvement of socio-economic conditions: The development of new businesses has been encouraged in the area, resulting in an ecotourism small enterprise and a small recycling community business owned by community residents.
- Total Project Cost: The total cost of the project is estimated at $744M. The Government of Puerto Rico has invested around $120M in the area, including the relocation of the Barbosa Bridge ($35M), relocation of over 300 households, the Barrio Obrero Marina Vacuum Sewer System, as well as other housing projects. $150M was authorized for the channel dredging under the Water Resources Development Act of 2007 requiring 40% state matching funds. Preconstruction Engineering and Design for Phase I of Contract #1 of the project is fully funded ($3.85 million).