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Building ban to face coastal erosion, Rincon, Puerto Rico

Each year there is a loss of about 1.84 meters of coastal terrain due to the rise of the tide and global warming. Local government agencies have taken notice and are looking for solutions to this predicament.


It seems that each year, according to a marine science professor at the university of Puerto Rico Mayaguez under the Sea Grant Program, Puerto Rico loses approximately 1.84meters of coast a in a year, give or take. Although this issue affects the whole island we focus here on the coastal area of  Rincon. Coastal erosion has caused severe problems for people that live near the oceanfront given that some of the terrain that they owned is being swallowed by the sea little by little. The Department of Natural Resources (DRNA in Spanish) have yet to come up with a solution that can be applied in the short term to give peace of mind to the population living on the coastal line and who make different claims on the coastal area. It is said that new legislation and regulation is in place to prevent building along the coast, this new regulation states that any infrastructure must be built at a minimum distance of 50 meters from the coast. This has caused an uproar by marine biologist and marine scientist. They state that you can’t regulate building just on the basis of 50 meters, you have to take into consideration the behaviour of the sea and the beach at different times during the year, do an assessment of the different species that inhabit the designated coast, not to remove any kind of vegetation from the coast like palm trees, given that the roots are the ones that hold the land together. This also problematic for local tourist business that thrive on the appeal that beaches and coastal areas have for restaurant or bars located along the coast.  There are large sums of money at stake, for prevention of damage to the extent possible. 

Basic Data
Name of conflict:Building ban to face coastal erosion, Rincon, Puerto Rico
Country:Puerto Rico
State or province:Puerto Rico
Location of conflict:Rincon
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Land acquisition conflicts
Tourism facilities (ski resorts, hotels, marinas)
Urban development conflicts
Wetlands and coastal zone management
Specific commodities:Land
Sand, gravel
Ecosystem Services
Tourism services
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The loss of coastal terrain by an approximate total of 1.84 meters in a year and the conflictive regulatory measures to face it. The affected populations are business owners; beach goers, communities that live on the coast.

Project area:12,100
Level of Investment:9,000,000USD to 12,000,000USD
Type of populationRural
Start of the conflict:02/06/1986
Company names or state enterprises:Departamento de Recurson Naturales y Ambientales (DRNA) from Puerto Rico - involved in coming up with a long term solution
Relevant government actors:DRNA, LocalMunicipal Agencies
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Sea Grant (
Departamento de Recursos Naturales y Ambientales (
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Local government/political parties
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of alternative proposals
Media based activism/alternative media
Referendum other local consultations
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Waste overflow, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems
Potential: Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Health ImpactsPotential: Deaths, Occupational disease and accidents, Accidents
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Displacement, Loss of livelihood
Project StatusProposed (exploration phase)
Conflict outcome / response:Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
New legislation
Application of existing regulations
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Possible closure of local businesses located along the coast of Puerto Rico, and loss of recreational pier infrastructure.
Businesses would have to temporarily suspend any activity until a solution can be presented or close of any area that is mayorly affected by this phenomenon. Families living on the coast will have to relocate due to possible accident of a crumbling infrastructure
Development of alternatives:To stop building near the coast. Coastal walls is a short term solution brought on by the environmental department of Puerto Rico.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:The problem arises with the local goverment and enviromental government agencies giving out construction permits without doing a full evaluation of the impact in a long term situation on the coast and only temporal solutions that in the long term will only aggravate the situation. They have a long term plan that needs millions of USD in funds which is made worse by the fact that Puerto Rico is in a crippling economic depression and with a large public debt.
Sources & Materials
Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

Resolución del Senado 994(Cabo Rojo)
[click to view]

Law number 23 from 1972 ( the organic law from the enviromental department)
[click to view]

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Historical shoreline changes at rincon, Puerto Rico 1936-2006
[click to view]

Measuring Shoreline Changes in Rincon Beach Using Remote Sensing Techniques
[click to view]

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

PR beach Erosion
[click to view]

Beach Erosion and Coastal Development at Rincón, Puerto Rico
[click to view]

Preocupante erosión en las playas
[click to view]

Conversan sobre erosión
[click to view]

DRNA no recomienda soluciones temporeras ante problema de erosión costera
[click to view]

Preocupa la erosión en la playas de Puerto Rico
[click to view]

La erosión costera un reto enorme y costoso para Puerto Rico
[click to view]

Historical Shoreline Changes at Rincón, Puerto Rico, 1936-2006
[click to view]

Debaten Problema de erosión en las playas
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Cristian J. Vélez Morales, [email protected], University of Puerto Rico Mayagüez
Last update13/10/2017
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