Governor seeks expert input on coastal erosion mitigation
Declares ecological emergency, freeing up $1 million in federal funds for conservation, natural resource initiatives in response to climate change
By The Star Staff
Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia asked the Committee of Experts and Advisors on Climate Change on Monday for recommendations to correct and mitigate damage from coastal erosion in Puerto Rico.
“It is my commitment to address the issue of coastal erosion with priority and a sense of urgency to develop and implement specific measures to reduce [our coasts’] vulnerability,” the governor wrote to the group chaired by Natural and Environmental Resources (DNER) Secretary Rafael Machargo.
The recommendations must include any draft law or amendment to existing laws that can reduce the effects of climate change to coastal areas, including those coming from storm surges, hurricanes, floods and a rise in sea level.
Act 33 of 2019 created the Public Policy for Mitigation, Adaptation and Resilience to Climate Change, which notes that the coasts of Puerto Rico constitute one of the areas most susceptible to climate change.
“It is known that the damage caused by rising sea levels will affect life and property, with severe consequences for our people,” the governor said. “This reality is evident every day and requires joining efforts and resources to comply with the public policy outlined in Law 33.”
University of Puerto Rico (UPR) Interim President Mayra Olavarría Cruz, meteorologist Ada Monzón and the former director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Carl Axel Soderberg, are part of the committee created by Act 33 of 2019. Also, Economic Development and Commerce Secretary Manuel Cidre Miranda; the director of the Coastal Geomorphology laboratory at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), Maritza Barreto Ortiz; and Pablo Méndez Lázaro, an associate professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences at UPR, also serve on the committee, as do Rafael Méndez Tejeda and Roy Torbert, a professor in the Department of Natural Sciences at UPR-Carolina who is a professional specialized in global renewable energy.
In other efforts in favor of the environment, the governor declared an ecological emergency through Executive Order 2021-66 and authorized the Disbursement Supervision Committee, created last year, to allocate $1 million to the DNER from the $10 million portion of federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act set aside for conservation and natural resource initiatives.
Likewise, he allocated an additional $1 million for reforestation efforts so that the DNER, in conjunction with non-profit environmental entities, gets involved in the planting and maintenance of trees.