The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has big plans for Puerto Rico’s premier tarpon grounds; they want to use Torrecilla and San Jose lagoons as their personal garbage can. The corps of engineers is heading a proposal to dredge the Martin Pena channel which connects San Jose lagoon to San Juan harbor. This channel has been intransitable for decades because of sediment deposits, raw sewage deposits, vegetation growth and garbage waste that have clogged up the waterway between the two bodies of water.
The corps of engineers wants to dredge the channel to clean the area and to increase the flow of water, but they want to deposit the materials from the dredging activities right in the middle of Puerto Rico’s premier tarpon grounds. Torrecilla and San Jose lagoons both have deep depressions up to 50 feet deep that were created in the 1960’s when landfill was needed to create the San Juan International airport. Since then tarpon have thrived in these waters for close to 50 years. Now the Corps of Engineers wants to refill the depressions because it is the cheapest way to get rid of the toxic materials that they will be dealing with once they start dredging project.
Environmental studies of the Martin Pena channel show that the sediments from the area are highly toxic and cannot be dumped in the traditional dumping areas off the north shore of Puerto Rico. If the Corps of Engineers is permitted to refill these depressions with the toxic materials from the channel, Puerto Rico’s tarpon grounds will be totally destroyed. Tarpon come into the lagoons because of the deep water provided by the depressions and it is here that a solid charter fishing industry has been established since 1994. Local captains and guides are fighting hard to save this incredible fishery from extinction.