• The San Juan Daily Star

New report details state of island beaches post-Maria

A new informational publication provides municipal-level detail on the state of Puerto Rico’s beaches after the passage of Hurricane Maria.

By John McPhaul

The Puerto Rico Coastal Planning and Research Institute published a new informational document on the state of the beaches in Puerto Rico after the passage of Hurricane Maria.

The research led by geological oceanographer and coastal erosion specialist Maritza Barreto Orta presents the areas with accretion (beach extension gain) and erosion on the coasts of Manatí, Toa Baja, Carolina, Río Grande, Luquillo, Culebra, Maunabo, Patillas, Guayama, Salinas and Guánica.

“Knowing the situation of coastal changes, identifying the magnitude and occurrence of erosion and/or accretion events at the municipality level is the basis for defining an adequate and tailored coastal planning for our island; planning that is urgent in the framework of the reconstruction of the island,” Barreto Orta said in a written statement.

Among the most impressive findings of the publication is the migration of beaches and the water line inland in several municipalities of the island for 2018.

“We knew that this event could be occurring on our coasts, but this is the first time that quantitative documentation has been achieved for several coastal municipalities on the island,” Barreto Orta said.

Of the municipalities presented, Luquillo has the largest number of coastal kilometers (km) with beach migration (0.79 km) and inland water line (1.76 km). The municipalities of Río Grande and Manatí measured second and third among the coastal towns studied with the highest migration.

“Ignoring what the state of the coast presents will lead to repeating the same errors of the use of the coast as in the past, which will translate into not achieving the coastal resilience we need,” said Barreto Orta, a professor at the Graduate School of Planning at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), Río Piedras Campus.

Since 2018, the Puerto Rico Coastal Planning and Research Institute has been investigating the state of the beaches in Puerto Rico after the passage of Hurricane Maria in September 2017. With the new publication, the Institute will have compiled erosion and accretion data for 34 coastal municipalities in Puerto Rico.

“The data on the situation of the coast will be of great help for the municipalities and the State to plan and manage their coastal zone in the post-Maria scenario,” Barreto Orta said.

The findings of the research are the result of a grant of $1.4 million, awarded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Central Office for Recovery, Reconstruction and Resilience, for a duration of three years (2019- 2022).

Collaborating on the project are Aurelio Castro, also a professor at the UPR Graduate School of Planning; Luis Santiago, a planner and professor at the School of Public Administration at Central Florida University; and Rafael Méndez Tejeda, a meteorologist and professor of natural sciences at the UPR, Carolina Campus. Also, graduate students in planning, environmental sciences and history at the UPR Río Piedras Campus, and a law student from Inter-American University of Puerto Rico participated in the project.

The Puerto Rico Coastal Planning and Research Institute carries out projects aimed at research, education, and planning in the coastal zone of Puerto Rico and the Caribbean Region. Its mission is to generate knowledge and practices that contribute to the solution of the problems that affect the coast. Likewise, in the face of the challenges of climate change, the Institute provides planning tools and strategies that promote the conservation and protection of coastal resources.

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