USACE Commissions Task Force VIPR for Projects in Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) South Atlantic Division (SAD) formally commissioned Task Force Virgin Islands Puerto Rico (TFVIPR) in a ceremony at the historic Fort Castillo San Cristóbal in the heart of San Juan, Jan 23.

Brig. Gen. Daniel Hibner, commander U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, South Atlantic Division welcomed guests, and stakeholders in the region and lauded them for their unwavering support.

“On this day we celebrate the full operating capability of this organization to support USACE programs in Puerto Rico (PR) and the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI),” said Hibner. “This is a rare occurrence to stand up a new organization, this is the most significant re-organization in the South Atlantic Division certainly in recent history and what is even more rare is to do what we have done, accomplish what we have accomplished at the pace we have gone,” said Hibner, “I want to welcome you to USACE’s newest organization. You are the one door to the Corps for the critical and urgent missions in the Antilles.”

Brig. Gen. Daniel Hibner, commander U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, South Atlantic Division, (Left) watches as Col. Charles Decker, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, commander, Task Force VIPR, Jacqueline Keizer U.S. Army Corps of Engineer, Task Force VIPR Deputy District Engineer for Project Management and (with Flag) Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Rodney C. Russell, South Atlantic Division Command Sergeant Major posts the colors. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers South Atlantic Division formally commissioned Task Force Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico in a ceremony at the historic Fort Castillo San Cristóbal in the of San Juan Jan. 23. USACE PHOTO BY MARK RANKIN

TFVIPR was created to organize and prioritize the demand of construction projects throughout the USVI and PR.

Jaime A. Pinkham, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works applauded the TFVIPR team for their implementation of construction projects in PR and the USVI.

“This Task Force is well aligned with the administrations delivery of resources across the states and territories,” said Pinkham. “Congratulations General Hibner, on this day of celebration and commitment. I applaud you and Col. Charles Decker’s your efforts to get Task Force VIPR up and running so quickly.”

Col. Charles Decker, commander U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Task Force speaks during a commissioning ceremony for Task Force Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico at the historic Fort Castillo San Cristóbal in San Juan, Puerto Rico Jan. 23, 2024. Task Force U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico (Task Force VIPR) was created to organize and prioritize the demand of construction projects throughout the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. USACE PHOTO BY MARK RANKIN

Hibner talked of how the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers South Atlantic Division program has grown exponentially in terms of the number of projects and funding since 2017 and the integral duty of how Congress approved supplemental funding bills (BBA 18, DRSAA, and BIL) between 2018 and 2022 that provided powers and appropriations throughout USACE.

He said the increase was due to the impact of natural disasters on the island, as well as increased requirements in the civil works (CW), military construction (MILCON), inter-agency and international support (IIS), and environment programs. Due to these increases the Corps took a new approach and commissioned Task Force U.S. Virgin Islands Puerto Rico to meet the demand and speed of projects.

In April 2023, Lt. Gen. Scott A. Spellmon, 55th Chief of Engineers and the commanding general of the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers approved South Atlantic Division’s proposal to stand up Task Force Virgin Islands Puerto Rico.

On May 2023, Hibner and Congresswoman Jenniffer González Colón, Puerto Rico’s sole representative in Congress, introduced the creation TFVIPR. Hibner named Col. Charles L. Decker, as the first commander for Task Force VIPR.

“I am happy to be here and extremely glad that USACE created an exclusive work group to attend reconstruction here in PR and USVI,” said Gonzalez. “The volume of projects and budget is such that Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands needed a dedicated team to attend the workload, and therefore Task Force VIPR has been created. My team vows to continue to work closely with them so that our people can be safe in the face of natural disasters.”

SAD directed a review of regional workload that revealed significant workloads in the Jacksonville District Areas of Responsibility, particularly in Puerto Rico Civil Works. The review recommended the development of a Task Force to provide oversight of programs and projects in PR and USVI.

Governor Albert Bryan Jr. from the USVI gratitude for the USACE and specifically Task Force VIPR. He said economic growth and infrastructure expansion are priorities for the people of the USVI.

Governor Albert Bryan Jr. from the U.S. Virgin Islands speaks during a commissioning ceremony for Task Force Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico at the historic Fort Castillo San Cristóbal in San Juan, Puerto Rico Jan. 23, 2024. Task Force U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico (Task Force VIPR) was created to organize and prioritize the demand of construction projects throughout the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. USACE PHOTO BY MARK RANKIN

TFVIPR with its own command and leadership structure under Decker, will focus on all current and future civil projects in their area of responsibility.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville, Antilles Area Office, which operates several specific projects in Puerto Rico, reports to the Jacksonville District, which is also under the South Atlantic Division. The ceremony marks the official transformation into the Task Force Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

Jacqueline Keizer U.S. Army Corps of Engineer, Task Force VIPR Deputy District Engineer for Project Management said she is very excited that we have the opportunity to take this great program and make it extraordinary.

Our motto is “One team, one mission for PR. Task Force VIPR will have one focus and that is all current and future Civil Works projects in PR and the USVI,” said Kaiser.

“Thank you, USACE for being a key partner in the re-construction efforts to build a stronger and resilient PR and most of all having a team that cares about their community,” said Gonzalez.

TFVIPR will carry out all the civil works that USACE carries out and will carry out on the island. Other districts could collaborate with the works in PR, such as Jacksonville District which will continue to be in charge of cleaning up Culebra under the program of sites previously used by the Department of Defense (FUDS) and the completion of studies on coastal erosion.

Current Project work sites in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands:

San Juan – Flood Risk Management Project Río Puerto Nuevo – $1.5 billion
San Juan- Improvements to San Juan Harbor- $45.5 million
San Juan- Ecosystem Restoration Project-Caño Martín Peña-$163.2 million
San Juan- Army Reserve Energy Resilience and Conservation Investment Program (ERCIP) Puerto Nuevo $9.6 million
San Juan -construction of FDA facility $10 million.
Dorado, Toa Baja y Toa Alta- Flood Risk Management Project Río de La Plata- – $485.2 million.
Arecibo – Flood Risk Management Project Río Grande de Arecibo- $174.1 million.
Gurabo y Caguas -Río Grande de Loíza – FY24 Expressed Capability
Aguada y Aguadilla – Flood Risk Management Project Río Culebrinas -$26.4 million.
Ciales- Flood Risk Management Project Río Grande de Manatí – $14.8 million.
Guayanilla- Flood Risk Management Project Río Guayanilla -$60.6 million
Aibonito- Río Aibonito- $50,000 for studies
Santa Isabel-Rio Descalabrado- pending.
Guaynabo – 4 reconstruction projects on Fort Buchanan-$63 million
Salinas- Army Reserve National Guard Joint Training Center -$291 million
Salinas- Río Nigua – $47.8 million
Mayagüez -Río Guanajibo- $107.1 million.
Quebradillas- reconstruction of the Guajataca Dam- pending.

Since 2017 USACE has completed the following projects:

Fort Buchanan Access Control Point – $10,274,721.12
Fort Buchanan Apparatus Building- $2,191,640.38
Fort Buchanan Physical Fitness Annex – $1,717,442.38
Aguadilla Army Reserve Center- $19,674,589.07
Rio Puerto Nuevo Cont 2D Walls-$24,059,396.00
East Levee Repair (Barceloneta)-$3,219,090.99
Guajataca Dam Stage 2 Risk Reduction Measure- $5,815,005.41
Guajataca Dam Sluice Gate Stem Replacement- $787,504.50
Guajatca Dam Spillway Channel Reinforcement-$17,804,766.14
Rio Yauco Temporary Levee Repair- $2,283,888.39
Guajatca Dam Hydraulic System Replacement- $1,106,467.55
Salud Creek Streambank Protection- $1,059,800.90
Loiza Shoreline Protection- $3,586,866.55
Arecibo Harbor & Mayaguez Harbor O&M- $6,548,412.00
Rio Anton Ruiz Restoration- $3,782,216.29