• The San Juan Daily Star

Bill filed to tackle seaweed buildup blamed for some power plant failures

A bill has been filed in the island House of Representatives to order the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources to address the annual problem of a high accumulation of sargassum, a type of seaweed, along Puerto Rico’s coastline.

By The Star Staff

Every year, the island’s coastal waters go through a period of a high accumulation of seaweed, but lawmakers José “Che” Pérez Cordero and Eddie Charbonier Chinea announced on Tuesday the filing of legislation in the island House of Representatives to order the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DNER) to take care of the problem.

The joint resolution comes a day after Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority officials said problems with sargassum at at least one of the utility’s power plants caused recent outages that have plagued customers.

Joint Resolution 229, of which Rep. Joel Franqui Atiles also is co-author, establishes that several years ago the seaweed problem affected the island’s coasts, preventing not only bathers from enjoying the beaches, but also affecting tourism, as well as the businesses that depend on the tourism market.

Pérez Cordero said “the situation that is being discussed today about the damage that sargassum has done to the Electric Power Authority shows a problem that must be addressed promptly for the benefit of all.”

“For years we have seen this problem without paying much attention to it, but this recent event highlights the importance it deserves,” he said. “Every year we see how this macroalgae reaches our shores and it is in the hands of this administration to plan and be proactive so that the effects of this situation can be prevented and to avoid future complications in the various areas that it may impact.”

As indicated in the Joint Resolution, the legislative effort seeks to present concrete solutions that include direct government initiatives as well as those that can be executed by the private sector, an implementation calendar, and the identification of the funds necessary for the implementation, from state funds as well as all federal recovery, reconstruction and resilience funds including those allocated through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery and -Mitigation programs, as well as programs administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Charbonier Chinea said “it is time for the Department of Natural Resources to address this problem.”

“As an expert agency they must look at what has been done in other places and get creative with the federal funds available to achieve a real and permanent solution to this problem that affects not only my precinct in San Juan, but all of Puerto Rico,” he said.

The joint resolution orders the DNER to include in its recovery plan an action plan with concrete measures to address the problem of sargassum on the island. The plan must include concrete steps to be implemented by the government, as well as with the private sector and the budget to be set aside for such initiatives. The DNER must submit a report with the aforementioned data 90 days after the measure is approved.

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