In order to offset ongoing land loss and lessen its consequences, the government is allocating $105 million in federal money for the implementation of close to two dozen measures. As part of the measures, homes have been moved, artificial reefs have been built, mangrove plants have been planted, and beaches have been sanded.
At a press conference, Governor Pedro Pierluisi declared, “This is an ambitious agenda.”
Two-thirds of Puerto Rico’s 3.2 million inhabitants live along the island’s almost 700 miles (1,200 kilometers) of coastline. More than 20% of that people reside in places at high risk of floods.
A study by the University of Puerto Rico found that more than 60 miles (99 kilometers) of shoreline have migrated inland in previous years. Much of the erosion is blamed on storms including Hurricane Maria, a Category 4 storm that slammed into the island in September 2017, with experts warning that future storms will be more powerful and occur more often.
By July 2018, erosion was identified in 40% of Puerto Rico’s beaches and accretion, which is the accumulation of sand, was found in 60% of beaches, according to the Institute of Coastal Investigation and Planning of Puerto Rico.
The measures announced Tuesday will be implemented in municipalities that have been hit the hardest, including Rincon, Cabo Rojo, Isabela and the neighboring sister island of Vieques, all extremely popular with tourists.
The island’s Department of Natural Resources also was ordered to create a new protocol to deal with coastal erosion and update its coastal zone management plan.
Other measures include the creation of a committee charged with fighting coastal erosion, the demolition of abandoned coastal structures and the demarcation of public domain assets in the maritime-terrestrial zone.
The announcement comes as activists and environmentalists continue to demand a moratorium on coastal zone construction and decry an increase in illegal coastal structures, some of which judges have ordered demolished.