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Water: Nonpoint Source Success Stories

Puerto Rico (Section 319, Vol. III)

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Coastal Nonpoint Source Controls:
Executive Order Adopts Section 6217(g) Management Measures as Official Policy


Raul Santini
Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources
P.O. Box 9066600
Puerta de Tierra, PR 00906-6600

Ruben Gonzalez
Puerto Rico Environmental Quality Board
P.O. Box 11488
Santurce, PR 00910-1488

Puerto Rico is one of 29 U.S. states and territories with special programs and responsibilities for protecting and managing important coastal resources. To address more specifically the impacts of nonpoint source pollution on coastal water quality, Congress enacted the Coastal Zone Act Reauthorization Amendments of 1990. Section 6217 of the Act requires that each state with an approved coastal zone management program (including Puerto Rico) develop a Coastal Nonpoint Pollution Control Program and submit it to EPA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for approval. Each program must provide for the implementation of technical management measures (section 6217(g) measures) that address major categories of nonpoint sources that impair or threaten coastal waters nationally, including agricultural runoff; urban runoff; forestry runoff; marinas and recreational boating; and channelization and channel modification, dams, and streambank and shoreline erosion.

Adopting the management measures

On February 8, 1999, Puerto Rico's governor signed an Executive Order (OE-1999-08) adopting the section 6217(g) management measures as official public policy throughout the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. The order requires the creation of an Interagency Committee of lead Commonwealth agencies to uphold the mandate for the implementation of the section 6217(g) management measures and to ensure compliance with the measures for the major categories of nonpoint source pollution. The Committee is charged with developing and implementing a plan for the control of nonpoint sources of pollution throughout Puerto Rico, while adopting the section 6217(g) measures as "the official technical guidelines of the Plan."

The Committee is composed of representatives from various agencies in Puerto Rico, such as the Environmental Quality Board, the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, the Regulations and Permits Administration, the Department of Agriculture, the Soil Conservation Districts, the Planning Board, the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Agricultural Extension Service, the Department of Health, the Department of Transportation and Public Works, the Highway and Transportation Authority, the Aqueduct and Sewer Authority, the Electric Power Authority, the Ports Authority, and any other government institution that the Committee identifies as essential to developing and implementing the plan.

The Executive Order calls for all Committee member agencies to adopt the 6217(g) measures and integrate them into their existing decision-making processes as soon as possible, but not later than 2 years from the effective date of the order. This requirement applies to direct agency activities and authorizations for other public and private activities. The order also lists several specific legal and administrative mechanisms that the Commonwealth agencies must use to demonstrate compliance with the measures. Finally, the order requires the Committee members to jointly develop and implement the "public policies, plans, programs, or organizational structures required" to ensure the effective implementation of the required management measures. The Committee meets every month to review and coordinate agency efforts and track plan implementation. The Committee is also responsible for preparing a plan implementation status report for the Governor by February 8, 2002.

Program approval

The Committee was deeply involved with the development of Puerto Rico's Coastal Nonpoint Pollution Control Program, which contains detailed 5-year plans and a 15-year strategy to implement the Executive Order. The Executive Order provides for adequate, enforceable policies and mechanisms to ensure implementation of the section 6217(g) management measures. As a result, on October 17, 2000, Puerto Rico received federal approval (from NOAA and EPA) for the Commonwealth's Coastal Nonpoint Pollution Control Program. The program is the first among U.S. island territories to receive full federal approval and the fourth overall after Maryland, Rhode Island, and California. Upon approval of its plan, Puerto Rico immediately began to implement the 6217(g) management measures in all public activities, including the granting of authorizations or permits for public or private actions.

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