In recent years, Puerto Rico has struggled with an excess of coastal erosion. On April 11, 2023, Governor Pedro Pierluisi (NPP, D) declared a state of emergency in order to set aside funding and resources to help combat the effects of coastal erosion, which is a critical step toward addressing the problem. This erosion stems from a combination of climate change as well as the sequence of natural disasters, including Hurricane Maria and Hurricane Fiona, that Puerto Rico has endured in the past decade. The combination of these factors has created an unprecedented situation that required government recognition.
Coastal erosion is widespread and is affecting many citizens. According to the University of Puerto Rico, 60 miles of shoreline has moved inland in just the past few years. Even further, around a third of Puerto Rico’s population of 3.2 million lives on the coastline, and over 20% live in areas that put them at risk. Some of the places especially affected are Rincon, Isabela, and the island of Vieques. The vast scope of Puerto Ricans affected by coastal erosion is what led the government to declare a state of emergency and pursue action.
The government has planned to spend $105 million on recovery efforts which will include creating a specialized committee to focus on combating coastal erosion. Additionally, it will implement home relocation programs to help those whose homes will be directly impacted. The announcement that the government will take action was well received by activists who have been continuously protesting coastal zone construction and its impact on the environment. The initiatives proposed demonstrate the government’s commitment to addressing the needs of the territory. Coastal erosion is not a new occurrence in Puerto Rico, with data showing it has been worsening over the past few years. In December 2022, Barreto Orta, a geological oceanographer, noted that a failure to address shifting shores and coastal erosion could put lives and infrastructure at risk.