SAN JUAN – In a press release, the Federal Emergency Management Agency recalled that in the last three years, it obligated funds "so that iconic structures with historic value in Puerto Rico can regain their luster."
Since Hurricane Maria in 2017, FEMA has obligated more than $ 360 million to municipalities, the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture and the Office of Historic Preservation for repairs to public buildings and parks, which include hospitals, government offices, educational centers, and sports complexes, as well as several points of interest throughout the island.
The obligations include funds for the Guajataca Tunnel in Isabela, a project with "great economic impact on its area since it attracts about 7,000 visitors a year," the agency said said, adding that given the “complexity of the project repairs, FEMA allocated $ 47,000 to perform architectural and engineering studies to repair the tunnel permanently. Built in 1904, the tunnel connects the towns of Isabela and Quebradillas, and is a remnant of Puerto Rico's sugarcane era, when a railroad system spanned the island. ”
Similarly, a grant of about $ 22,000 was approved for the Fortín Conde Mirasol in Vieques. The funds will be used to repair and replace the contents of the structure, which includes a collection of paper artwork containing silkscreen prints, maps and posters of activities and festivals held at the Fort. Also planned is the repair of a wagon wheel from the beginning of the last century that was used to move sugar cane and a wooden sculpture, as well as the replacement of 15 exhibit cases, according to FEMA.
“This first part of the two phases of assistance expected for Fortín Conde Mirasol paves the way for the recovery and improvements we need. We will follow-up on every step and support in this process to rescue this piece of historical and cultural heritage of Vieques and Puerto Rico, ”said the executive director of the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture, Carlos Ruiz Cortés.
Meanwhile, in the municipality of Rincón, funds were awarded for the Punta Higuero Lighthouse. Approximately $ 20,000 is designated for architectural and engineering design costs needed to repair the site.
“Once the technical studies are completed, plans will include the replacement of the wood deck, lighting fixtures, ceiling tiles and other repairs. Since 1993, the Lighthouse has included a passive park with a maritime museum, cafeteria, meeting areas and a lookout point for whale watching and a view of Desecheo Island. It is currently run by the municipal administration and is visited by thousands of tourists every year, ”the release reads.
To date, FEMA has obligated over $ 7.2 billion for costs related to hurricanes Irma and Maria, including projects to help rebuild infrastructure throughout Puerto Rico.
“Roughly 1,200 local staff are leading the recovery efforts,” FEMA said.