By The Star Staff
A Guayama judge ordered on Wednesday the demolition of certain illegal structures at the Bahía de Jobos National Estuarine Research Reserve in Salinas.
Judge Josian Rivera Torres established a term that cannot exceed 30 days, subject to the approval of the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DRNA). Failure to carry out the order will result in contempt of court penalties.
As part of the ruling, the defendants, Pablo Vergara Ramos and Judith Rivera, have to stop using the illegal structure under penalty of contempt permanently.
“By the provisions of the court, each of the parties and any other person is warned that failure to comply with this order may constitute civil or criminal contempt. Furthermore, failure to comply with this order could result in an arrest and a fine not exceeding five hundred (500) dollars, and you may be imprisoned for a period not exceeding six months,” Judge Rivera Torres wrote.
The head of the environmental agencies, Anaís Rodríguez Vega, anticipated in written statements that “all the cases that we already have in court for the illegal structures in this Reserve will suffer the same fate as the one resolved today... We remain focused on safeguarding the natural heritage for the present and future generations and ensure that the development on our island is carried out responsibly and sustainably. This ruling is another step in our mission to conserve and protect our environment.”
Meanwhile, Salinas Mayor Karilyn Bonilla Colón insisted on the commitment of the entire municipal administration to enforce current laws and regulations. “Certainly, all of these processes are meticulous and technical, so we continue to work hand in hand with the DRNA (Department of Natural and Environmental Resources). Just as we had communicated to the people of Salinas: justice will be done. What we are announcing today is an example of this.”
The decision comes as a growing number of Puerto Ricans decry the illegal developments built in estuary. Activists say developers have damaged wetlands and stripped that part of the island of a natural barrier that protects the shore from hurricane storm surge.