What is the Estuary Program?

The Corporación para la Conservación del Estuario de la Bahía de San Juan (Corporation for the Conservation of the Estuary of the San Juan Bay) is a non-profit organization.

Mission

Restore and conserve the water quality in the Estuario de la Bahía de San Juan ecosystem as a sustainable hub of social and economic development.

What is the Estuario de la Bahía de San Juan Program?

We are a non-profit organization that works to protect this ecosystem within its eight municipalities: Bayamón, Carolina, Cataño, Guaynabo, Loíza, San Juan, Toa Baja, and Trujillo Alto.

Our office employs six full-time employees. Our main responsibilities are:

  • Promote and implement the Comprehensive Conservation Management Plan (CCMP) of the Estuario de la Bahía de San Juan and monitor its progress.
  • Study the environmental response to this implementation process.
  • Inform the members of the Management Conference of the Bahía de San Juan Management Program about the environmental response to the implementation process.
  • Communicate the efforts of the implementation of the Management Plan.
  • Improve public awareness about the estuary.
  • Develop a work plan and annual budget.

We have the following active committees that meet several times per year:

  • Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee (STAC)
  • Civic Advisory Committee (CAC)

The STAC president represents the academic/technology sectors and the CAC president represents the residents of the bordering communities of the estuary before the Management Conference.

Origins of the Estuary Program: The Clean Water Act of the United States

Section 320 of the Clean Water Act created the National Estuary Program (NEP), administered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The mission of the NEP is to protect and restore the health of the estuaries while supporting economic and recreational activities.

The law allows governors of coastal states with estuaries to submit these bodies of water for NEP consideration. Through the Estuaries of National Importance designation, the estuary can receive federal funds for research to write and coordinate the implementation of a comprehensive estuary management and conservation plan.

In April of 1992, the government of Puerto Rico nominated the system of the Estuario de la Bahía de San Juan before the NEP. Six months later, in October of 1992, this valuable ecosystem received the designation of Estuaries of National Importance. Of the 28 estuaries that belong to the NEP, the Estuario de la Bahía de San Juan is the only tropical estuary and the only one located outside the continental United States.

On April 20, 1993, the government of Puerto Rico officially proclaimed the Estuario de la Bahía de San Juan as an estuary of national importance to the United States.

Estuario de la Bahía de San Juan Program Management Conference: Agreement between the federal and state governments and residents

With the official designation of the estuary as one of national importance, the Estuario de la Bahía de San Juan Program (PEBSJ) Management Conference was created, an alliance between the federal, state, and local governments with the task of researching, designing, and coordinating the implementation of the Comprehensive Conservation Management Plan (CCMP). The Estuary Program was created to commence those efforts. The office of the Estuary Program was inaugurated in June of 1995.

Corporation for the Conservation of the Estuario de la Bahía de San Juan

With the objective of continuing CCMP long-term, the Management Conference created the Corporation for the Conservation of the Estuario de la Bahía de San Juan. This non-profit organization receives federal funds and resources from other sources.

The corporation has a board of directors made up of volunteers. It is incorporated in the Department of State and can receive federal, state, and municipal funds, individual donations, or private entity donations to make progress on the CCMP implementation.

The Corporation Board of Directors has nine members ex officio (meaning they belong to the organism as part of their official position) and five members of the community. This governing body includes government agencies that implement the Management Plan.

The ex officio members include the Secretary of Natural and Environmental Resources, the Executive Director of the Aqueduct and Sewage Authority, the President of the Planning Board, and the Regional Administrator of EPA (non-voting member). In the past, the President of the Environmental Quality Board was also an ex officio member, whose functions were passed to the Natural and Environmental Resources Department in 2018. The five individuals who represent the community come from the following sectors: academia/technology, non-profit organizations, banking/finance, and residents. The governor of Puerto Rico names the ex officio members, the president of the Corporation Board of Directors, and the representative of the non-profit organizations.

The agencies and individuals on the board mainly work at the macro level, implementing the most complex actions of the Comprehensive Management and Conservation Plan of the Estuario de la Bahía de San Juan, which is the most ambitious environmental restoration plan of Puerto Rico.