2004 Denver Annual Meeting (November 7–10, 2004)

Paper No. 6
Presentation Time: 1:30 PM-5:30 PM


BUSH, David M., Department of Geosciences, State Univ of West Georgia, Carrollton, GA 30118, WEBB, Richard M.T., 10250 W 13th Pl, Lakewood, CO 80215-4522, HYMAN, Lisbeth, CB-3 Calle 130, Urb. Valle Arriba Heights, Carolina, PR 00630, LIBOY, Jose Gonzalez, RR-36 Box 1430, San Juan, PR 00926 and NEAL, William J., Geology Department, Grand Valley State Univ, 1 Campus Drive, Allendale, MI 49401, nealw@gvsu.edu

Living With the Puerto Rico Shore (1995, Duke University Press), part of the “Living With the Shore” series, is a primer on coastal hazards, and “user's guide” to the Puerto Rico coastal zone. Based on an appraisal of the geology, history, dynamics, and hazards of this insular coast, the objective of the book was to positively influence future coastal land use and planning. The book provides descriptions of the entire shoreline, notes hazards specific to each reach, gives guidelines for selecting building sites, and discusses legal aspects of coastal planning. After 10 years in print, the book has succeeded in bringing a bit of conscience and science to discussions of coastal management and hazard mitigation in Puerto Rico. However, challenges remain.

Positive impacts directly or indirectly related to the book are many: 1) Tsunami risks have been recognized and a warning system designed and implemented; 2) The planning, design, and implementation of The book has become a common reference for evaluating coastal projects by planners and managerscoastal projects has improved; 3) Environmental groups have used the book to differentiate projects being proposed in sensitive or vulnerable areas from those located in areas of lower risk.; and 4) The book has been used as an aid in revising coastal management policy in Puerto Rico. Since “rules of the coast” are indiscriminate, lawyers, critics, and developers have all used the book at some point to justify or oppose coastal projects.

Unfortunately, poorly planned coastal developments and/or management decisions continue to impact the Puerto Rico shore: 1) New gabions, seawalls and revetments continue to be constructed, usually on top of or behind failed ones; 2) Sand from in rivers, beaches, and dunes, critical for maintaining a flexible natural defense against the sea’s encroachment, continues to be mined; and 3) Large coastal developments continue to place more property and people in high risk zones.

The need to improve existing coastal management policies is becoming more critical. More rivers in Puerto Rico are being impounded, and coastal ecosystems have been in a state of declining health in response to both natural and anthropogenic stresses. The end result is a further decrease in natural supplies of sand that feed the island’s disappearing beaches.