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A birds-eye-view photograph of an inefficient rock dam.
Information icon Cambalache dam. Photo © William Hernández.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announces the availability of the Draft Environmental Assessment for the Cambalache dam partial removal and/or modification located within the Río Grande de Arecibo in Puerto Rico

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announces the availability for public comments of the draft Environmental Assessment (EA) for the Cambalache dam partial removal and/or modification located within the Río Grande de Arecibo (RGA) watershed in Arecibo, Puerto Rico. This draft EA has been prepared as a requisite of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and includes information of the proposed action for the partial removal/modification of the existing low-head dam.

A dam made of rocks allows water to flow over and through it
Cambalache dam. Photo by Félix López, USFWS.

The presence of physical in-stream barriers such as dams built for agriculture, flood control, or potable water have modified the natural stream banks, water flow, and other hydrological aspects of many streams in Puerto Rico. Furthermore, dams and other stream-crossing structures have disrupted the connectivity for migratory native aquatic species (fish and crustaceans) inhabiting the Island’s freshwaters and consequently excluding them from a large portion of their potential aquatic habitat upstream.

The project seeks to reestablish river connectivity, increase stream habitat heterogeneity for the conservation of native freshwater species, and improve public health and safety by minimizing the adverse consequences associated with the potential failure of the low-head dam since it is no longer functional. This approach was devised after an evaluation conducted in 2016 by the USFWS in collaboration with the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources and other collaborators such as the National Wildlife Refuge Association, Protectores de Cuencas, Inc., and the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez to identify priority areas in Puerto Rico for aquatic restoration. The proposed project is part of the implementation of a Stream Connectivity Restoration Initiative in Puerto Rico since 2016.

Alternatives

The draft EA evaluates several alternatives considered for the implementation of the project and the document presents as the preferred alternative the partial removal/modification of the Cambalache low-head dam. This alternative is preferred over the others because it will increase stream connectivity and enhance movement of river biota, reduce erosion, provide long-term improvement of water quality and sediment transport, possible impacts to the area are expected to be temporary/minimal and localized, will benefit targeted native aquatic species, improve public health/safety and artisanal/recreational fisheries, and it is more cost effective. Actions needed for the partial removal/modification of the low-head dam include:

  1. complete permitting process
  2. development of an engineering plan/design for the proposed action
  3. vegetation clearing/removal in the access area leading to the project site prior to implementation, and
  4. use of heavy equipment machinery (e.g. backhoe, excavators) to partially remove/modify the stone structure of the low-head dam.

Comments

The USFWS is requesting written comments on the draft EA. Based on the comments received; the Service would modify the draft EA. Comment(s) must be submitted within 30 days of this announcement. Download the draft EA. The draft will also be available for review at the following locations:

  1. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Caribbean ES Field Office, Carr. 301, Km. 5.1, Boquerón, Puerto Rico 00622
  2. Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, Recreational and Sport Fishing Division, Carr. 8838, Km. 6.3, Sector El Cinco, Río Piedras, Puerto Rico 00926
  3. Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, Regional Office at Arecibo, Government Center Floor A Office 202, Ave. José Cedeño, Arecibo, Puerto Rico 00612,
  4. University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo, Carr. 653, Km. 0.8, Sector Las Dunas, Arecibo, Puerto Rico 00614, and
  5. Town hall in Arecibo, Ave. José de Diego, Arecibo, Puerto Rico 00613.

Submit comments to

Marelisa Rivera
Deputy Field Supervisor
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Caribbean ES Field Office
P.O. Box 491
Boquerón, Puerto Rico 00622
marelisa_rivera@fws.gov

Contacts

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information on our work and the people who can make it happen, visit fws.gov. Connect with the Service on Facebook, follow our tweets, watch the YouTube Channel and download photos from Flickr.

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