The Puerto Rico Land Authority will preserve 1,000 acres of wetlands as part of an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Wetlands help prevent flooding and the pollution of rivers, lakes and streams. The wetlands preserved under the settlement, the majority of which are in Loiza just east of San Juan, will now be protected from future commercial and industrial development. The land will be protected through a conservation easement filed under Puerto Rico law to ensure that it will remain undeveloped forever.
“Protecting wetlands is a priority for EPA, especially in Puerto Rico where they are increasingly threatened by over development,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck. “Through EPA’s settlement with the Land Authority, 1,000 acres of vital wetlands will now be preserved forever.”
The settlement is part of an initiative to address issues in the Canóvanas area of northeastern Puerto Rico where unpermitted housing and roads have been built on Puerto Rico Land Authority property, including in valuable wetlands. The Puerto Rico Land Authority owns, manages, sells and leases property throughout the Commonwealth. The 1,000 acres of wetlands being preserved are currently leased for low impact agriculture, but could have been sold in the future for development. The Puerto Rico Land Authority also paid a $25,000 penalty and spent $100,000 to establish a wetlands management program separate from the preservation of the 1,000 acres.
Wetlands are a valuable resource that naturally filter chemical contaminants from our water and land and help control floods. Wetlands also support a vast array of bird, plant, aquatic and animal life. Damaging or eliminating wetlands can be devastating to coastal ecosystems. Wetlands also provide recreational opportunities, aesthetic benefits, sites for research and education, and support fisheries. Anyone planning construction activities in wetlands or streams must contact the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to obtain a permit.
For more information on EPA’s work to protect wetlands, visit http://www.epa.gov/region2/water/wetlands/.