WASHINGTON DC – Congress approved a bill on Monday night, known as the omnibus, which brings together various topics grouped into a single measure, this time the budget to finance the federal government for fiscal year 2021, the new federal aid for COVID-19 and the Law for the Development of Water Resources (WRDA), Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colón reported Tuesday.
“I am pleased to report that Congress included my measure on the bus to make the Island eligible for the WaterSMART Grants and Drought Resiliency Project Grants, allowing us to have more tools to mitigate the drought and strengthen our water infrastructure,” said the Commissioner Resident in a written statement.
“It includes additional funds that we advocate for the PAN, an increase in the authorized cost for the Caño Martín Peña, as well as language to advance water projects on the Island and to direct the National Science Foundation (NSF, for its acronym in English) to attend to the collapse of the Arecibo Observatory radio telescope ”, explained González Colón.
Measure of the authorship of the commissioner included in the bus
The commissioner managed to include in the measure HR 6050, Puerto Rico WaterSMART Grants Eligibility Act, legislation that will allow the Island to be an eligible jurisdiction to apply for WaterSMART and Drought Resiliency Project grants from the Office of Recovery of the Department of the Interior of the States United.
“Recently the Island was under a period of drought, which is not something that comes from now, but for years the Island has already faced problems of conservation and efficiency in water management. With this legislation, Puerto Rico will have access to grants for the development of projects that generate quantifiable water savings, projects focused on efficiency in the conservation and use of water, financing opportunities for the development of commercialization strategies to establish or expand markets for water, among others, ”said the commissioner.
Water Resources Development Act (WRDA)
The 2020 WRDA law was included as part of the bus. In it, the commissioner managed to include a measure to increase the authorized cost to carry out the environmental restoration project of Caño Martín Peña from 150 million dollars to 255,816,000 dollars.
In turn, it includes language to authorize projects for flood control in the Culebrinas River, the Grande de Manatí River and the Guayanilla River in Puerto Rico.
It also authorizes $ 10 million for recurring mapping of rapidly changing coasts, including the coasts of Alaska, Hawaii and the United States territories.
Budget for Fiscal Year 2021
Funds and language included in the bill managed by the commissioner for the benefit of Puerto Rico:
Agriculture- Approximately 2 billion dollars under regular funds from the Puerto Rico Nutrition Assistance Program (PAN); 2 million dollars for the Subsidy Program for Insular Areas of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA); and $ 2 million for the Transportation Cost Reimbursement Program for Farmers and Ranchers in Geographically Disadvantaged Areas.
$ 75 million for the National University Sea Grant Program, which includes the Puerto Rico Sea Grant at the University of Puerto Rico; $ 40.5 million for the Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) of Regional Observations, which includes the United States Caribbean Coastal Ocean Observing System (CARICOOS) in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
About $ 28.5 million for the National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS), which includes the Jobos Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve; 78 million dollars for Coastal Zone Management Grants, which award annual grants to the Puerto Rico Coastal Zone Management Program, administered by the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources.
It is addressing the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to include the territories in the Economics: National Ocean Watch (ENOW), a data set developed by the agency to develop economic measures of ocean industries. To support this effort, $ 700,000 is allocated.
González Colón, along with Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy (D-FL), managed to include language to address the collapse of the Arecibo Observatory radio telescope by directing the National Science Foundation (NSF) to report to Congress within 60 days of the promulgation of this law on damage, cleanup and the process to determine the establishment of similar technology.
“Congress recognized that the Arecibo Observatory radio telescope was not only a scientific treasure for our Island for the last 57 years, but it has also been an integral part of the capacities of our nation and the international community to advance in the field of scientific research, ”said the Resident Commissioner.
On December 4, the commissioner asked the leadership of the Committee on Science, Space and Technology of the House of Representatives of the United States, a public hearing to discuss what happened with the collapse of the Arecibo Observatory radio telescope, as well as steps to follow. to continue the works and study in the center.
$ 4,070,000 is allocated for operation and maintenance works for dredging the navigation channels of the port of San Juan; $ 126,000 for the inspection of projects completed by the Corps of Engineers in Puerto Rico; $ 100,000 for inspections on project conditions in Puerto Rico.
The Bill includes language that recognizes the importance of Caño Martín Peña, as well as the damage it has suffered as a result of Hurricanes Irma and María, and supports the inclusion of the funds necessary for the project to advance to the next phases. This includes the construction phase.
$ 2.7 million for the Puerto Rico Highways Program
$ 37 million for the Fort Allen National Guard Readiness Center.
29.2 million dollars for the transition of the Borinquen Air Station of the Coast Guard in Aguadilla from MH-65 helicopters to MH-60 and thus improve the effectiveness of the border security missions, search and rescue due to its greater capacity for people and teams and his longest time on the scene.
An additional $ 2.5 million to expand the Coast Guard’s ability to multilevel address the Western Hemisphere maritime transit zone. The transit zones are seven million-square-mile areas that include the marine corridors of the western Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico, and the eastern Pacific Ocean).
Some $ 400,000 to support the operations and maintenance of the Tactical Communications System of the National Security Investigations division of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service (ICE), previously completed in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, which will help minimize redundancies and the communication gaps that exist between components of the Department of Homeland Security and other federal, state and local partners in the northern Caribbean.
Department of the Interior
Language previously included by the House and Senate is reaffirmed where they reject the closure of the International Institute of Tropical Forestry, located in Puerto Rico.
About $ 85.4 million for the United States Geological Survey (USGS) Earthquake Hazards Program, which includes funds for updating the national seismic hazard map and expanding it to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands .
$ 700,000 per estuary for the National Estuary Program, which includes the San Juan Bay Estuary Program in Puerto Rico.
Authorizes the allocation of funds under the National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund to serve priority deferred maintenance projects in federal parks in Puerto Rico. Specifically, under the National Park Service list of projects, funds will be provided to stabilize the cliff at the San Fernando Bastion of the San Juan National Historic Site. Similarly, under the list of priority projects of the United States Forest Service, funds will be allocated for two projects in the El Yunque National Forest: (1) the El Portal replacement project and visitor improvements and (2) the project of Reconstruction of the Arboles Grandes / La Mina path.
The agreement reaffirms the language that the resident commissioner ensured in the House report that directs the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to improve the availability, collection and publication of crime statistics for Puerto Rico and the rest. of the territories.
The federal Secretary of Justice is urged to comply with the direction in the House report, promoted by the resident commissioner, to report on initiatives to combat violent crime in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The Department of Justice, in turn, is directed to evaluate its strategies to help Puerto Rico counter crime and to consider the possibility of providing additional federal resources, if necessary.
Also included in the bus is the new federal COVID-19 incentive agreement that includes a new $ 600 check for individuals and an additional $ 600 for minor dependents; $ 300 a week for unemployment up to 11 weeks, $ 325 billion to help our merchants through PPP loans, health funds, housing assistance, among other provisions that apply to the Island.