An excavator constructs a containment dike in one of the marsh creation areas of the Upper Barataria marsh creation project. (Moffatt & Nichol)


Vice President Kamala Harris (D) announced that the United States Department of Commerce has recommended $34.4 million for projects across Puerto Rico to make communities and the economy more resilient to climate change as part of the Investing in America agenda. Across Puerto Rico, eight projects will create jobs and boost economic and environmental outcomes for coastal communities.

The awards are made under the Biden Administration’s Climate-Ready Coasts initiative funded through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) with additional funds leveraged from the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).

“The Biden-Harris Administration is proud to recommend funding for projects to mitigate the effects of extreme weather events that threaten Puerto Rico’s rich ecological diversity and maritime economy,” said Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo. “These critical investments in coral reef restoration, removing derelict vessels, and restoring coastal habitats will promote long-term sustainability while creating jobs and economic opportunities for Puerto Ricans.”

Administered by the Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Climate-Ready Coasts initiative is focused on investing in high-impact projects that create climate solutions by storing carbon; building resilience to coastal hazards such as extreme weather events, pollution, and marine debris; restoring coastal habitats that help wildlife and humans thrive; building the capacity of underserved communities and support community-driven restoration; and providing employment opportunities.

“The recommended projects will help protect some of Puerto Rico’s most treasured natural resources,” said Rick Spinrad, PhD, NOAA administrator. “They will also unlock economic opportunities and bring new partners to the table as we work toward a climate-resilient Puerto Rico.”

“As Co-Chair of the House Oceans Caucus, I’m pleased to see that congressionally-appropriated funds are supporting coastal restoration efforts across the nation.  I especially welcome NOAA’s announcement that it is recommending funding for multiple projects in Puerto Rico to help protect our coral reefs, restore our mangroves and dune systems, reduce land-based sources of pollution in our watersheds, and support the removal of marine debris and abandoned and derelict vessels throughout our waters. These initiatives will not only help strengthen our Island’s marine economy, but they will also enhance the resilience of our coastal communities,” said Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González-Colón (NPP, R). “I commend the organizations who successfully applied for these federal funds and applaud their work and commitment to protect Puerto Rico’s coastal resources.”

These projects are part of NOAA’s nearly $6 billion total investment under BIL and IRA. Recommend projects and funding amounts in Puerto Rico include:

  • Multi-strategic Approaches to Scaling-up Ecosystem-based Restoration to Improve Coral Reef Recovery and Resilience around Puerto Rico
    Institute for Socio-Ecological Research: $10.5 million
    Funding Source:
    Transformational Habitat Restoration and Coastal Resilience Grants
    Investments in coral reef restoration will help provide coastal protection, enhance fisheries, and support recreation and tourism economies. Five acres of coral reef will be constructed at three low-coral cover locations, including Fajardo, Mayaguez, and La Parguera, thereby strengthening ecosystem resilience. The effects of coral diseases will be mitigated by reintroducing slow-growing, massive reef-building coral species, including threatened Orbicella coral species and pillar coral.
  • Restoring the Historic Guánica Lagoon to Reduce Land-based Sources of Pollution in a Priority Watershed in Puerto Rico
    Protectores de Cuencas:  $7.4 million ($1 million for year 1; up to a total of $7.4 million over three years)
    Funding Source:
    Transformational Habitat Restoration and Coastal Resilience Grants
    This investment in restoring the Guánica Lagoon will increase community resilience to flood events and provide recreational opportunities for visitors. Prior to being drained in 1955, the lagoon spanned approximately 1,200 acres and provided important benefits for fish, wildlife, and local communities. In addition to habitat loss, draining the lagoon significantly affected the ability of the watershed to filter and prevent sediments and nutrients from reaching Guánica Bay and the adjacent seagrass and coral habitats. Restoration of the lagoon will also install stormwater and erosion control improvements downstream, including a permeable parking lot.
  • Multi-Site Coral Reef Restoration to Build Resilient Communities in Florida, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands
    Coral Restoration Foundation: $6.9 million
    Funding Source:
    Transformational Habitat Restoration and Coastal Resilience Grants
    Investments in coral reef restoration will help provide coastal protection, enhance fisheries, and support recreation and tourism economies across Florida, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands. This project will help rebuild populations of five Endangered Species Act-listed corals at multiple sites, including reefs associated with ongoing NOAA efforts in these areas. The project’s outreach and education activities will engage Girl Scouts, student interns, and the local community by building on an established outreach program.
  • Setting the Baseline for a Marine Debris-free Puerto Rico
    Isla Mar Research Expeditions: $4 million
    Funding Source:
    Marine Debris Removal Competition
    This investment will focus on the removal of abandoned and derelict vessels throughout Puerto Rico. The project will also establish a coordination strategy for abandoned and derelict vessel prevention, management, and response island-wide.
  • Mangrove, Seagrass, and Coral Restoration in the Vieques Bioluminescent Bay Natural Reserve
    The Vieques Conservation and Historical Trust: $2.9 million
    Funding Source:
    Coastal Zone Management Habitat Protection and Restoration Grants
    This funding will restore coastal habitats within Bahía Puerto Mosquito, also known as the Vieques Bioluminescent Bay, located within the Vieques Bioluminescent Bay Natural Reserve. The project will create living shorelines and expand the restoration of mangroves and coral reef habitat, which will improve ecosystem and community resilience.
  • Ecological Restoration to Improve Coastal Community and Habitat Resilience in Loiza, Puerto Rico
    University of Puerto Rico at Aguadilla: $1 million
    Funding Source:
    Coastal Habitat Restoration and Resilience Grants for Underserved Communities
    The University of Puerto Rico at Aguadilla will restore mangroves and dunes in Loiza. These habitats have been significantly damaged by past hurricanes and winter storms, which has made local communities more vulnerable to flooding from storm surges and sea level rise. They will build their capacity to lead restoration, community outreach, and environmental education activities.

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