The coral reef ecosystems of Culebra are some of the more pristine habitats within the northeastern Caribbean marine biodiversity (Hernández-Delgado et al.,2000). However, long-term monitoring has shown an alarming 5-11% annual decline in percent coral cover in Culebra since 1997 (Delgado and Sabat, 2015). Research suggests that the decline in coral cover may be associated with increased sedimentation resulting from recent coastal development (Ramos-Scharrón et al., 2012). Furthermore, unpaved roads have been identified as a principle source of erosion and sediment loads within the 2014 Culebra Watershed Management Plan (WMP). In priority regions of the U.S. Caribbean, NOAA has taken a lead role in developing watershed management plans and implementing watershed restoration projects to reduce existing LBSP threats. However, poorly planned coastal development and the lack of enforcement pose a significant threat to the creation of future LBSP threats. Sustainable and effective LBSP management strategies must include efforts to enhance interagency collaboration to improve the capacity for communities to prevent LBSP threats in the future, In addition, there is a need to establish watershed restoration targets and evaluate the performance of watershed restoration projects to assess NOAA’s progress towards meeting their targets and inform adaptive management needs. This project will develop a comprehensive LBSP management strategy including development of watershed restoration targets, enhancing interagency collaboration, and watershed restoration performance monitoring to combat the LBSP threat of unpaved roads on Culebra Island.Because of the relatively small size of the island and the quality of the surrounding coral reef habitats, it is anticipated that LBSP threats can be effectively managed on Culebra to provide significant coral reef benefits. In addition, Culebra has been a focus for recent NOAA investments and a priority for the Territory (i.e., CRCP priority area for Puerto Rico, Caribbean Habitat Focus Area, Culebra WMP, investments to reduce LBSP and enhance coral reef populations through nurseries and outplantings). Through these efforts, NOAA and their partners have established relationships with key community stakeholders (e.g., mayor of Culebra, ACDEC, local non-profits, DNER, USFWS, USDA, EPA) which provides the foundation for leveraging resources resulting in a cost-savings to NOAA. As such, Culebra provides a great case study for developing an interagency strategy to reduce LBSP threats from unpaved roads.This project will continue to make significant strides towards reducing the LBSP threat on Culebra while also identifying opportunities to leverage interagency support for LBSP management throughout Puerto Rico. Specifically, this project will: (1) establish coordination with an interagency group to identify and leverage opportunities for LBSP management, (2) identify watershed restoration targets for NOAA funding and opportunities for interagency collaboration, (3) stabilize 3 miles of unpaved road, (4) monitor of stabilization projects to evaluate performance and inform adaptive management needs, and (5) develop an unpaved road guidance document for use by the interagency group and transferable to the broader Caribbean.
This project directly contributes to all of the priority CRCP LBSP objectives, including the 3 specified in the FY2016 RFP. Furthermore, this project is located in Culebra, a CRCP priority area and the Caribbean HFA.This project will implement priority projects from the Culebra WMP to stabilize 3 miles of unpaved road and reduce sediment loadings to nearshore coral reefs (Objective 1.3). The project design will consist of standard watershed restoration techniques (e.g., green infrastructure, water bars) that are common throughout the Caribbean; however the project will utilize a new strategic approach to identifying projects for implementation to enhance the ability to leverage future funding. Specifically, feasibility analyses and interagency coordination will be used to evaluate and prioritize unpaved road projects in the Culebra WMP. This information will be used to establish watershed restoration targets for NOAA funding and provide a strategy for funding other ‘unfunded’ projects. From this prioritized list, 2 projects will be implemented to stabilize 3 miles ofunpaved roads on Culebra Island. These projects will be coupled with demonstrations and trainings to educate the interagency group and local professionals on LBSP abatement techniques and sustainable coastal development. In addition, watershed restoration BMPs will be monitored to evaluate the project performance and inform adaptive management needs (Objective 1.5). The BMPs that are monitored will be transferable throughout the broader Caribbean; therefore, information gained from this monitoring effort will inform potential pollutant reductions in other portions of the Caribbean.Lastly, this project will enhance capacity for LBSP management throughout the Territory (Objective 3.1). Specifically, the project will establish coordination with an interagency group to clarify roles and responsibilities for LBSP management. This group will be consulted throughout the project to identify and leverage opportunities for LBSP management. In addition, a guidance document will be developed in coordination with the interagency group to specify preferred unpaved road standards and erosion and sediment control techniques for the Caribbean. This guidance document will provide the interagency group the information needed to implement the ‘unfunded’ projects in the Culebra WMP while also informing the construction of new unpaved roads.
Jursdiction Priority Sites:
Land-based Sources of Pollution (LBSP)