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EPA, Army Corps of Engineers, Puerto Rico and ENLACE Agree to Work Together to Clean Up the Cano Martin Pena

Release Date: 10/30/2015
Contact Information: EPA: Brenda Reyes, (787) 977-5869, reyes.brenda@epa.gov; or Andre Bowser, (347) 514-5257, bowser.andre@epa.gov; Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works: Moira Kelley (703) 614-3992, moira.l.kelley.civ@mail.mil; Commonwealth of Puerto Rico contact: Ileana Baez Bravo, (787) 354-8811 ibaez@fortaleza.pr.gov; ENLACE: Jorge Marchand, (787) 504-1111; Yamilin Rivera, (787) 640-5570, yrivera.vista@martinpena.org


    (San Juan, PR.) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the Corporacion del Proyecto ENLACE del Cano Martin Penatoday signed an agreement to assist in the restoration of the ecosystem of the Martin Pena channel. The agreement, detailed in a Memorandum of Understanding, provides the foundation for close collaboration between the entities to carry out the Cano Martin Pena Ecosystem Restoration Project, which will address long-term challenges facing those living near the channel.

    "The pollution problems that plague Cano Martin Pena and the health risks they pose to the community are serious," said EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck. "This agreement is an important step toward addressing these serious problems by coordinating the efforts of the federal government, Puerto Rico, and the community.”

    “Today we are memorializing a path forward. Today we are making a commitment to the people of Cano Martin Pena that no matter what, we will work together to restore a clean water flow and make the Cano healthy again,” said Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy.

    “The restoration of the Cano Martin Pena ecosystem is one of my administration’s highest environmental and social justice priorities. This agreement is yet another example of our administration’s strong commitment to work alongside the US. Government in addressing Puerto Rico’s challenges. Moreover, the agreement is a fundamental milestone for the more than 25,000 men, women and children living in the eight communities that surrounds the Cano Martin Pena,” said Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla.
      “After 15 years of struggle led by the grassroots organization G-8, and in partnership with the public and private sectors, we feel reassured that this project will be completed. Puerto Rico will benefit from social and environmental justice for our communities, a more resilient and livable San Juan, and new economic development opportunities for all,” said Jose G. Barea Fernandez, president of ENLACE.

      The agreement commits the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and ENLACE to work together to implement the Cano Martin Pena Ecosystem Restoration Project. The ecosystem restoration project is detailed in a feasibility report prepared by ENLACE, approved by the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works and currently out for public comments until November 9, 2015. The U.S. EPA, the U.S. Army, the Commonwealth, and ENLACE will collaborate on the project, including by providing technical assistance and input regarding sampling plans and other technical issues. The ecosystem restoration plan calls for the restoration of tidal connectivity between the San Josť Lagoon and the San Juan Bay by dredging and removing over 800,000 cubic yards of sediment, debris, and trash, which will improve 6,600 acres of habitat in the San Juan Bay Estuary, improve water quality and boost biodiversity. The agreement indicates that the parties intend to incorporate sustainable practices during the dredging process.

      In 2007, the United States Congress passed legislation authorizing the Secretary of the Army to carry out the Cano Martin Pena Ecosystem Restoration Project pending approval of the feasibility report. The project involves the dredging of approximately 2.2 miles of the eastern end of the channel, which will provide significant environmental and public health benefits, and make the adjoining communities more resilient to the effects of climate change. ENLACE, a public corporation whose mission is to rehabilitate the Martin Pena Channel and promote the comprehensive development of the bordering communities with grassroots participation, leads the relocation of families and infrastructure critical to the federal project.

      The Cano Martin Pena is a 3.5 mile long natural tidal channel located in the heart of the San Juan Bay Estuary that provides a vital connection between the San Juan Bay and the San Jose Lagoon. The accumulation of debris and the encroachment of housing and other structures in recent years has prevented water from flowing properly through the canal. As a result, untreated sewage that enters the canal cannot be flushed out and heavy rainfall causes this contaminated water to infiltrate adjacent communities, posing serious health threats to residents.

      Without federal assistance, it is expected that the Cano Martin Pena would continue to deteriorate, resulting in a complete blockage of the canal. This would severely impact the entire San Juan Bay Estuary ecosystem, with impacts to people’s health, the degradation of water quality and fish and wildlife habitats throughout the San Juan Bay Estuary.

      For more information on the Cano Martin Pena, visit http://www2.epa.gov/urbanwaterspartners/cano-martin-pena-martin-pena-channel-puerto-rico and www.cano3punto7.org.