Friday, January 3, 2014

Top 5 projects of the San Juan Bay Estuary Program for December 2013-January 2014

1) The Condado Lagoon Declared as an Estuarine Natural Reserve

We had yet another reason to celebrate: senator José Nadal Power (from left to right) Laura Vélez, President of the Environmental Quality Board, senator Ramón Luis Nieves, Carmen Guerrero, Secretary of the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources and Javier Laureano, Executive Director of the SJBEP held a press conference on December 16, 2013, to announce the designation of the first Estuarine Natural Reserve recognized by the local government. 

Read some of the ample news coverage of the event following the links:     

2) Study to identify raw sewage and its link to public health in the SJBE’s watershed

The Environmental Protection Agency and the Environmental Quality Board awarded the SJBEP a State Revolving Funds grant to design and implement a study to identify critical areas of sanitary discharges along the SJBE’s watershed, and its impact on human health.  On  December the organization contracted Dr. José Seguinot Barbosa and Dr. Rubén Hernández for the public health study, Roberto Morales for geospatial analysis and mapping, and Ernesto Olivares for water quality monitoring. During the first phase of the study, these professionals will be drafting the research methodology and a Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP) that will be submitted to EPA during the next months. 

3) First public forum on community-based environmental activism in the San Juan Bay Estuary's watershed 

Forum Attendees
Juan Cruz speaks about Quebrada Chiclana

On December 5, 2013 the San Juan Bay Estuary Program hosted a public discussion forum about environmental activism in the communities of the estuary’s watershed. The event, which was open to the public, provided a necessary forum for community leaders to share their stories and discuss the challenges and victories they have encountered along the way. Read more:

4) ‘Estuario 360: limpia, siembra y monitorea’, a citizen science and restoration event

Gustavo García, Julio Vallejo and Némesis Alejandra Ortiz
On December 7, 2013 the efforts of 130 volunteers in 15 locations— from Toa Baja to Loíza— were coordinated to clean important waterways, plant native trees and gather samples for water quality measurements. 

Alberto Rodríguez, left, and Manuel Sanfiorenzo volunteer in Rio Piedras
We are now getting ready for the next “Estuario 360” event, which will occur on March 1st, 2014. Don’t miss this opportunity to learn and help conserve the SBE by becoming a citizen scientist. 

Volunteers can sing up at this link: 

5) 19 new actions proposed for the Comprehensive Conservation Management Plan (CCMP) of the San Juan Bay Estuary. 

In an effort to keep up with a rapidly changing environment, we are currently revising the current SJBE management plan. As part of this process, 19 new actions were included for public consideration. Some of the new initiatives include the creation of green roofs and rain gardens in the San Juan metropolitan area, perform a detailed study of the ecosystem services provided by the estuary, and identifying the precise location of waste water discharge sites. You can find a complete list of the new actions in the link below and remember that we want to know what you think! 

We will receive comments to the newly proposed actions until February 28, 2014, please follow the link to view all proposed actions:

The SJBEP’s highlights for the months of September to November 2013 are as follow:

The SJBEP's drop off site for the Prescribed Medications Take Back Day, an effort coordinated by the DEA.  Our drop off is the most successful of the Island in terms of public participation, recovering over 300 pounds of prescribed drugs.     

Volunteers recovered over 700 pounds of debris from the shoreline of the San jose Lagoon, part of the Second Mega Cleanup of the Estuary.
One of our volunteers recovered a wheel from the bottom of the Condado Lagoon. 
MillerCoors will donate 15 cents per box of their product to help improve the San Juan Bay Estuary's ecosystems.  
Eight scuba divers recovered hundred of glass bottles from the bottom of the Condado Lagoon.
Thousands of fish died in the San Jose Lagoon and the Suarez Canal due to lack of oxygen and eutrophication.    
Condado Lagoon Estuarine Reserve – On September 30th, 2013 Governor Alejandro García Padilla signed into law the designation of the Condado Lagoon as an Estuarine Natural Reserve. Law 112 of 2013 raised the level of protection for the Lagoon and instructs the DNER to develop a management plan in coordination with the SJBEP.  The Law also creates a commission comprised of the SJBEP, DNER, community representatives, the Municipality of San Juan, and businesspersons of the zone.  Our organization offered information about the Estuary and the Lagoon to senators José R. Nadal Power and Ramón Luis Nieves. Following are some links to related news:

SJBEP celebrates ‘National Estuaries Day’ and recognizes the efforts of its volunteers 
Serving sparkling grape juice for the toast
Dr. Bauzá, scientific director of our team, recognizes the work of José Colón.

Our team and volunteers held a toast with sparkling grape juice on September 28, 2013, at the Condado Lagoon, to celebrate ‘National Estuaries Day’. This activity is a reflection of the importance of these coastal ecosystems, simultaneously held by the 28 members of the National Estuary Program.

SJBEP also recognized the work of hundred of volunteers on projects such as bird census, installation of oysters as biofilters, red mangrove planting and cleanups and water quality monitoring, in which they became citizen scientists gathering data to help society be aware of environmental problems and take action in an informed manner.

Significant death toll of estuarine fish During the last week of October, the SJBEP documented a significant increase in the death toll of various estuarine species in the San José and Los Corozos Lagoons. Water quality tests conducted by the SJBEP specialists indicated that water conditions in the lagoons were basically anoxic: dissolved oxygen concentrations in some points were only 0.77 mg/L , when healthy levels should exceed 5.00 mg/L. As a result the SJBEP issued a press release informing the citizenship of the situation and advising people not to come into contact with the potentially dangerous waters. The release was published by several news media.

MillerCoors to donate 15 cents of each box of their product to help restore the Estuary/ Employees help clean the Condado Lagoon- As part of its continuous support to the SJBEP, MillerCoors will donate 15 cents of every 12-pack box of Coors Light sold in the Island. The money will help support cleanup, water quality monitoring and mangrove planting initiatives associated with Estuary 360, which will begin in December 2013, as well as other projects of the entity.

Also, for another consecutive year, employees and managers of MillerCoors volunteered to plant and clean the borders of the Estuarine Reserve of the Condado Lagoon. MillerCoors is an active supporter of the SJBEP and takes a part in our cleanup and planting initiatives. In this occasion the General Manager of the company in Puerto Rico handed a donation to our organization’s Executive Director to help us further the restoration of the San Juan Bay Estuary’s ecosystems.

Walmart helps preserve the San Juan Bay Estuary– On October, Walmart made a $15,000 contribution to the SJBEP’s Special Fund. The donation will help the SJBEP further some of its key conservation efforts.   

Successful medication take-back campaign – On October 26, 2013 the Drug Enforcement Agency coordinated this activity where citizens can safely dispose of unused or unwanted prescribed medications. The SJBEP joined the activity to help prevent these medications from reaching the bodies of water through the sanitary system.  For decades the population of the Island has disposed of their unwanted medications throwing the drugs in the toilets.  The Authority of the Convention Center District sponsored the project by offering to the SJBEP a space at the Puerto Rico’s Coliseum (Choliseo) to establish a take-back site.  On October 26 from 10am to 2pm the SJBEP carried out its second medication take-back campaign. From 10am to 2pm, citizens were encouraged to return their expired and unwanted medications to a confidential take-back point in front of Puerto Rico’s Coliseum.

Estuary’s Mega Cleanup – This is an activity coordinated by the charter boats of the Cangrejos Yacht Club located in the Torrecillas Lagoon.  The boat owners, organized by Israel Umpierre, are very concerned with the marine debris accumulated in the shorelines of the Eastern axis of the ecosystem and decided to take action. 

As part of the Estuary’s Second Mega Cleanup, the SJBEP organized a shoreline cleanup with volunteers along the coast of the San José Lagoon, in the Adolfo Dones Park area. With the help of more than 50 volunteers coordinated by Gladys Rivera, the organization managed to pick up approximately 700 pounds of solid waste accumulated in the shores of the Lagoon. Various participants received a brief capacitation workshop by the SJBEP’s water quality-monitoring expert, Ernesto Olivares and the Executive Director Javier Laureano, and later on were able to test the waters of the San José Lagoon.  The initiative helped raise awareness of the importance of proper waste disposal.

Volunteer divers help clean the Condado Lagoon- Eight divers managed to take out of the Lagoon around 270 glass bottles from a 3,000 square meter area in the bottom of this body of water. The event took place on Saturday, November 2, 2013 as part of the first the underwater cleanup organized by Cristina Ramirez, coordinator of "The Condado Lagoon is My Home", a marine debris initiative managed by the SJBEP in affiliation with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Among the items recovered were several plastic bottles and cups, aluminum cans, pieces of foam, and even a steering wheel. Also recovered from the bottom of the lagoon were 40 yards of fishing line, an unsuspected found item given the fact that the Lagoon is a no-fishing zone.