The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) South Atlantic Division (SAD) commander, Brigadier General Daniel Hibner, signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) on June 29, 2023, with the Puerto Rico Power Authority (PREPA), to initiate the permanent repairs of the Guajataca Dam in Isabela, Puerto Rico. The total estimated cost for this project is around $1 billion. The funds will be received from PREPA with funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Disaster Recovery Funds. It is estimated that the permanent repairs will benefit 1,000 people that live directly downstream of the dam and another 250,000 that receive water from the filtration plants in Guajataca, Quebradillas, Isabela, and the mountains of Aguadilla. Governor Pedro Pierluisi was present during the signing ceremony.
“This Memorandum of Agreement sets the path for the final phase of the permanent repairs at the Guajataca Dam. This partnership is set for success, not only because of USACE expertise, but also because we have tremendous support from FEMA and the engagement and commitment of our local sponsor PREPA.” stated Brig Gen Hibner.
In 2017 Hurricane María caused failure of the spillway structure and damaged the water supply line, and the dam outlet works. Project Manager Carolina Burnette explained that the MOA paves the way for the risk analysis, which will take approximately two years. After completing this step, the design phase will occur, followed by the construction phase which is expected to last five years.
Puerto Rico’s governor, Pedro Pierluisi, stated that “this project will bring a dam that was built in 1913 to the twenty-first century. The dam will not only get the repairs needed but it will also have an alarm system that will inform first responders if evacuations are needed or will notify authorities of any other emergency that will put lives or properties at risk. The repairs will provide the Guajataca Dam with the stability, strength, and resiliency it needs for the future.”
Prior to signing of the MOA, Brig. Gen. Hibner met with Governor Pierluisi and other members of his cabinet and briefed them about Task Force Virgin Islands Puerto Rico (VIPR), as well as provided them with updates from the Puerto Rico Power Mission. The SAD Commander explained that “VIPR represents a precedent setting time in the history of USACE in the Island since the program infrastructure in Puerto Rico is larger than the last fifty years combined. This is an opportunity to make history in Puerto Rico. Task Force VIPR is about people: protect life and property of the citizens by mitigating the flood risk with leadership whose focus are the projects in both islands.”
The Power Mission, led by USACE’s District of Savannah, was also discussed before the ceremony. Regarding this mission, Brig. Gen. Hibner commented that USACE is “actively engaged in addressing the power grid challenges in Puerto Rico that have been made worse by recent hurricanes. The Corps is contributing valuable technical expertise to successfully deliver power to the grid and the infrastructure to rapidly respond to power generation and repair issues now and in the future.”