CaRA’s Efforts for Coastal Management in PR and USVI

We attended the Workshop on Ocean Observing in Support of Coastal Management sponsored by the Coastal States Organization (CSO) and the Caribbean Regional Association (CaRA) on Sept 3 and Oct 1, 2008 at the Embassy Suites Hotel & Casino in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The main goal of CaRA is to “establish and administer a sustained observing system for the northeastern Caribbean region, the Caribbean Regional Integrated Coastal Ocean Observing System – CaRICOOS to provide observations and products” (http://cara.uprm.edu) that are related to issues concerning coastal management and use. Members from the University of the West Indies, University of the Virgin Islands, and USVI-Sea Grant were active participants in this conference. The purpose of this workshop was to encourage the interchange of ideas and concerns of coastal managers and scientists from several government agencies and local institutions with the interest of improving and providing services for those particular needs from the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

Various issues of main concern included:

1.     Lack of tools (e.g., topography maps and models) that would benefit the managers in performing their duties

2.     Accessibility to the most recently updated information in a user-friendly format

3.     Political will as a constant pressure in coastal development

4.     Long-term planning for climate change adaptation (e.g., beach erosion, flash flooding)

5.     How to best guide coastal development based on models and maps that are based on USVI environmental conditions rather than conditions in the US or PR

6.     Lack of human capacity needed to obtain up-to-date information on land use, water quality, etc.

7.     Lack of technical training and expertise to maintain databases and websites

8.     Lack of interconnectivity and sharing of information among divisions in federal departments

9.     Lack of interagency and institutional dissemination of recent information on projects focused on coastal management

10.   Lack of sufficient funds for personnel and projects

Among these concerns, high-priority data needs were mentioned that addressed specific matters:

1.     Up-to-date data on wind, waves and currents throughout the USVI

2.     Watershed and wetland sampling for water quality evaluation

3.     Shoreline mapping

4.     Layered data sets for land-use plans

5.     Tsunami warning system

6.     Identifying inundation zones

7.     Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) habitat imagery including seasonal variations

8.     Accessibility and evaluation of information

9.     Real-time monitoring of water quality and coral reefs

Being able to find, interpret, and apply the data available through the CaRA data website (http://www.caricoos.org) is one of the major difficulties reported by users. In a personal interview with CaRA’s Executive Director, Julio Morell, one of the main tasks that they will be working on this year is the training of coastal managers and mariners on how to access and understand the data that is generated daily by the sensors located at several stations in the waters of USVI and PR.

A stakeholder council meeting was later scheduled on December 9, 2008 at the Embassy Suites Hotel & Casino in San Juan, PR. Dr. Manual Valdes-Pizzini was invited to participate in this conference. The purpose of this assembly mostly focused on stakeholder needs and maintaining collaborative efforts and relations with national and local organizations/programs such as PR/USVI state government, NOAA, National Federation of Regional Associations of Coastal and Ocean Observing (NFRA), IOCARIBE, Interdisciplinary Center for Littoral Studies (CIEL), US Coast Guard Search and Rescue, National Weather Service, and the PR Sea Grant Program.

Contributed by J. Seda

Posted in: Activities

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