The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has completed work on the $386 million Portugues Dam that is designed to reduce flooding impacts in Ponce, Puerto Rico.

The 220-foot high roller-compacted concrete (RCC) dam is the final component of the Portugues and Bucana flood reduction project, authorized back in the 1970s.(The project also included the Cerillos Dam, completed in 1991 and construction of stormwater channelization structures throughout the city, completed in 1997)

"This dam will reduce the impacts of flooding for 40,000 people," said Jo-Ellen Darcy, Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works). "Thanks to this dam, fire stations, hospitals, and schools are now better protected."

USACE faced several challenges during construction of the Portugues Dam due to unique geological issues at the site.

Construction initially began on the project during the early 2000s, but higher than anticipated costs on a thin-arch design for the dam sent engineers back to the drawing board. After a number of years, a thick-arch, RCC design emerged. Construction began in 2008, and was completed in December 2013. A dedication ceremony for the Portugues Dam was held of 5 February 2014.

The focus now shifts to filling the reservoir and testing the dam under various loads. Jacksonville District is also working on plans to turn over operation of the dam to the local sponsor, the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environment Resources (DNER), which is expected to begin operating the dam in early 2015.

Photo: Portugues Dam in Puerto Rico (Source: USACE)