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Home arrowNews arrowAugust 18, 2006

Puerto Rico State Historic Preservation Office Earns Partnership Commendation for Discovering, Documenting, Relocating and Preserving Spanish-American War Shipwrecks

SAN JUAN, PR—The Jacksonville District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), today received the Chairman’s Award for Federal Achievement in Historic Preservation for its leadership role in the discovery, documentation, and relocation of the historic shipwrecks the Manuela and the Cristóbal Colón in San Juan Harbor, Puerto Rico.

The Puerto Rico State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), which was the principal non-federal organization involved in the project, received a Partnership Commendation for its essential contributions to the successful effort. The award was presented to the Corps during the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) summer business meeting.

“When the Corps recognized that the shipwreck that had to be removed from the entrance channel to San Juan Harbor was linked to an important episode in the Spanish-American War, it acted quickly and appropriately to both accomplish its mission and preserve an irreplaceable chapter in local and national history,” said John L. Nau, III, ACHP chairman. “It was an innovative, practical solution in full keeping with the intent and spirit of the President’s Executive Order 13287, Preserve America.

As the Corps began efforts to improve the shipping lanes in San Juan Harbor six years ago, part of the work involved removing a shipwreck deemed to be of relatively recent origin. As pieces of the wreck came to light, experts working with the Jacksonville District and SHPO realized that they were historic. The wreckage turned out to belong primarily to the Manuela, intermingled with pieces of the Cristóbal Colón, both scuttled during the Spanish-American War to hinder access to San Juan Harbor for warships from the American fleet. Removal temporarily stopped.

Under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act and other applicable regulations, investigation, analysis, research, and then disposal began. When the archeological investigation was complete, the remains of the two ships were relocated seven miles west of San Juan in 70 feet of water. They were carefully placed in proximity to the SS Antonio Lopez, a National Historic Landmark. The Antonio Lopez was a blockade runner that was shelled by the U.S. gunboat Yosemite and subsequently sank. Today they all can be viewed and visited by divers.

The ACHP, an independent federal agency, promotes the preservation, enhancement, and productive use of the nation’s historic resources and advises the President and Congress on national historic preservation policy. It also provides a forum for influencing federal activities, programs, and policies that impact historic properties. In addition, the ACHP has a key role in carrying out the administration’s Preserve America program.



Posted August 18, 2006

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