152 Acres Along Puerto Rico Coastline Protected

San Juan, Puerto Rico, 1/7/2009: On the 15th anniversary of a million-gallon oil spill that damaged the coastline of PuertoRico, NOAA and partner organizations are celebrating the purchase of 152 acres to expand acoastal reserve near one of the areas hardest hit by the spill.

NOAA, the commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the Trust for Public Land announcedtoday that 152 acres east of San Juan have been added to the San Miguel Natural Reserve tohelp compensate the public for lost recreational beach use and injured natural resources for anextended period after the Berman Oil Spill on Jan. 7, 1994.

The purchase of this land expands the San Miguel Natural Reserve to 422 acres, anarea the size of 317 football fields, and contributes to a multi-year effort to create the NortheastEcological Corridor, one of the Caribbean’s last great unprotected areas.

“Expanding this coastal treasure of beach, mangroves, wetlands and forests protects thehealth of our coasts and provides the people of Puerto Rico with a wonderful place to swim, fish,hike and enjoy the beauty of the ocean,” said Patricia Montanio, director of the NOAA Office ofHabitat Conservation.

The San Miguel Natural Reserve is a mosaic of coastal habitats including near shorecoral reefs, more than a mile of beachfront, intertidal areas, wetlands, coastal dry forests,mangroves, the confluence of two rivers and the remnants of a 19th century hacienda used forsugar cane farming. The reserve is home to 16 federally listed threatened and endangeredspecies, including the endangered leatherback turtle which nests here.

“Preserving this site provides a continuous stretch of protected coastal shoreline,preventing the fragmentation of critical habitat,” said Mildred Ramos Majoros, The Trust forPublic Land’s project manager for Puerto Rico. “It also ensures that publicly accessible coastallands and waters are not privately developed and will continue to provide recreational areas toboat, swim, and fish.”

The expansion of San Miguel Natural Reserve completes a project begun in 2007 whenthe Trust for Public Land purchased the first 270 acres to create the reserve. The reserve is oneof a series of projects by NOAA, the National Park Service and the commonwealth of PuertoRico. Funding for these projects comes in part from a $9.7 million court settlement with theparties responsible for the spill.

The 1994 spill occurred when the Morris J. Berman, a 302-foot-long, 90-foot-wide barge,carrying 1.5 million gallons of number 6 fuel oil, ran aground near San Juan, releasing nearly a

million gallons of oil into coastal waters.

Other projects including creation of a coral reef trail and restoration of several historicforts in San Juan that were damaged in the spill are also pending.

NOAA understands and predicts changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths ofthe ocean to the surface of the sun, and conserves and manages our coastal and marineresources. Visit http://www.noaa.gov.