Citizens must document damage to their properties with photographs and videos. (Teresa Canino )

Neighbors and businesses in Ocean Park, San Juan, whose properties have been affected by beach erosion, can apply to the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DNER) for an emergency permit which, if approved, will allow them to make temporary improvements to address the situation.

Ernesto Díaz, director at the DNER Puerto Rico Coastal Zone Management Program, said yesterday that before applying for a permit, citizens must document damage to their properties with photographs and videos.

As a second step, he added, they must apply for an emergency certification from the Puerto Rico State Agency for Emergency and Disaster Management or the Municipal Emergency and Disaster Management Office.

Third, they should ask a certified engineer to propose a "possible temporary solution" to the damage caused by coastal erosion.

“With these documents, citizens must go to Natural Resources, which will evaluate them under Regulation 4860. Natural Resources, as the administrator and regulator of these spaces, will evaluate the request to intervene in the protection of a structure at risk,” said Díaz, who is also the coordinator of the Puerto Rico Climate Change Council.

The scientist explained that once the agencies determine that the emergency is over, neighbors and businesses can go back to the DNER to request a concession or a permanent solution to the problem.

He stressed that, both in the emergency permit and in the concession, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers could intervene.

On the other hand, Díaz said that since Ocean Park is a gated community it would be up to the Department of Transportation and Public Works or the Municipality of San Juan to limit access to the area, as a measure to prevent accidents.

"The ideal thing would be to reach a collaborative agreement and to have some kind of discussion between the agencies and citizens to see which are the areas of highest risk to protect lives and property," the official said.

Díaz said that a coastal erosion emergency has never been declared in Puerto Rico. However, if recommended by agencies, Governor Wanda Vázquez could do so.

"The declaration would depend on whether there are lives at risk," the scientist said.

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