Bill for conservation of coral reefs in line for governor’s signature

By The Star Staff

Senate Bill 1343, an amendment to the Law for the Protection, Conservation, and Management of Coral Reefs in Puerto Rico that would allow for the use of artificial coral reefs to mitigate the effects of rising sea levels on the marine-coastal zone, was one of the bills that completed the legislative process by June 30 and was to be sent to La Fortaleza for the governor’s signature.

Penned by New Progressive Party Sen. Carlos J. Rodríguez Mateo, the bill states that one of the greatest environmental challenges in Puerto Rico is the protection of the coasts due to increasing erosion.

The 2014 National Climate Assessment report maintains that the coast in the municipality of Rincón is eroding at a rate of 3.3 feet per year, the bill notes.

Puerto Rico’s fiscal crisis is blocking the processes of mitigation, adaptation and resilience to climate change, the bill adds. The measure proposes the inclusion of alternatives to marine-coastal ecosystems while considering their role in mitigating the adverse effects of climate change.

According to the measure, there are some 1,125 beaches, 140 cays, islets and islands, and thousands of wetlands that surround the coasts of Puerto Rico and provide ecological infrastructure to protect the island.

The island Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DRNA by its Spanish initials) will be responsible for regulating the entire process related to artificial coral reefs, in compliance with the pertinent requirements of the United States Army Corps of Engineers, the National Marine Fisheries Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and with any requirements established by federal and state agencies concerned.

The DRNA should first consider coral farming and natural rehabilitation of coastal coral reefs as a long-term sustainable strategy for the rehabilitation of beaches and when there are significant problems of coastal erosion.

The Senate bill defines an artificial reef as a human-made underwater submerged structure, typically built to promote marine life in areas with a generally bottomless spatial relief feature to control erosion, block ship passage or net dragging, or rebuild impacted habitats.

The artificial reefs can be constructed of different materials such as concrete, rock, wood or metal.

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