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Schumer, Velázquez Announce $163 Million for Restoration of Caño Martín Peña in Puerto Rico

Following years of inaction by the Trump Administration, the Senate Leader and New York Representative secured this historic funding as part of the Biden’s Administration enactment of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act

Washington, D.C. - Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and U.S. Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-NY) announced today that the federal government will award $163 million to help restore the Caño Martín Peña in Puerto Rico, the first time the federal government has allocated federal funding to begin restoration efforts following years of inaction by the Trump Administration. The announcement by the Army Corps of Engineers follows a request to the agency made by Schumer and Velázquez last week urging for the selection of the Caño Martín Peña Ecosystem Restoration Project as one of the projects to receive funding following the enactment of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

“For years, the Trump Administration callously ignored our calls to fund construction at the Caño despite the constant pleas by our fellow citizens in Puerto Rico asking us to restore the area. After fighting to secure a funding mechanism in the infrastructure law, Rep. Velázquez and I worked with the Biden Administration to prioritize the selection of this much-needed project. Now we’re proud to announce that this historic funding is finally coming to help revitalize the Caño, and we’ll continue working with residents and stakeholders to ensure we fully rectify this social and environmental injustice,” said Senator Schumer.

“For years, I’ve been fighting to pursue every avenue possible to secure federal funding to restore the Caño Martín Peña and I am overjoyed for the communities that today is the day it will finally be put into motion,” said Rep. Velázquez. “As I said when Senator Schumer and I wrote last week urging the Army Corps of Engineers to select this project, the Infrastructure and Investment Jobs Act is a clear opportunity to right the great social and environmental injustices that those living along this polluted canal in Puerto Rico have suffered for decades. I thank the Biden Administration for showing up for the island, and it has been an honor fighting for these funds alongside Enlace and the G-8. I will continue to monitor the rollout of this funding to ensure action is taken as soon as possible—the people cannot wait any longer for environmental justice.”

“This is a triumph for community based organization. It has not been easy, but we prevailed. We have worked and continue to work alongside all sectors in order to rescue our communities and integrate its richness and diversity to the rest of the city,” said Lucy Cruz, President of the G-8 Group, the organization composed of the leadership of the eight communities that surround Caño Martin Peña.

“There is great value in this project. It serves as an example to demonstrate the strengths of our communities, the capacity of the government to work with different models to face big challenges and the importance of the integration of the private sector. The investment made in this project will help create a city with more opportunities, more risk mitigation measures, and more resiliency. This project protects valuable natural resources and develops new economic opportunities,” indicated Mario Nunez, Executive Director for Proyecto ENLACE del Caño Martín Peña, the non-federal sponsor of the project.

Urban migration in the 1950s led impoverished workers to set up informal communities along the mangrove swamps of the Martin Peña canal, where they and approximately 26,000 other residents still live today. The once 200 – 400 ft. wide navigable channel connecting San Juan Bay to the San Jose Lagoon is severely polluted from years of accumulated debris, mismanaged residential and commercial development, and continued discharge of raw human waste directly into the water. The sediment and debris causing infill in the canal also impacts the storm water management system for the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport, and causes flooding all along the canal.

The project will clear the debris and dredge the channel to 10 ft. deep and 100 ft. wide, stabilizing the banks of the channel and helping alleviate the ongoing public health risks and environmental problems. The total cost is estimated at $250 million, with the federal government’s contribution of $163 million and an additional $88 million in funds provided by the non-federal sponsor, Corporación del Proyecto ENLACE del Caño Martín Peña (also known as ENLACE).c

Schumer and Velázquez helped secure $11.6 billion for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) construction funding in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, including $1.9 billion for Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration, for which the Caño Martín Peña Ecosystem Restoration Project is eligible. Sen. Schumer previously helped secure funding to study restoration efforts at the Caño. He visited the area last year to witness firsthand the devastation caused by pollution and flooding, and vowed to keep advocating for the project.