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San Juan Estuary Bay, San Juan, Puerto Rico

Talking Points for Governor Christine Todd Whitman
Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
at the
San Juan Estuary Bay
San Juan, Puerto Rico

December 12, 2002

Buenos dias y gracias Senor (Anibal) Acevedo Vila por la introduccion. (Good morning and thank you Mr. (Anibal) Acevedo Vila for that introduction.)

I = m pleased to be here today in Puerto Rico and to have the opportunity to tour the San Juan Bay Estuary.

The San Juan Bay holds immense value for the people of Puerto Rico as a unique recreational, economic, and natural resource.

As the largest tourist destination on the island, an environmentally healthy Bay is not only important to the Puerto Rican quality of life but to the local economy as well.

Unfortunately, poor environmental practices over the years have undermined the health of the estuary B impacting water quality and impeding the estuary = s ability to store floodwaters.

Those of you here today recognized the importance of reversing this damaging situation, and you have worked tirelessly to preserve and promote the health of the San Juan Bay Estuary.

Since joining the National Estuary Program a decade ago, a dedicated group of stakeholders, representing government, academia, business, community and environmental groups, have worked with EPA to develop a plan to restore, manage, and protect this vital resource.

EPA and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico have invested over $7,000,000 in the development of the San Juan Bay Estuary program, with this funding being used for various purposes including the establishment of an independent program office, restoration and management of lands surrounding the estuary, and research and water quality monitoring efforts.

I appreciate the opportunity to see the success of your efforts so far, as well as the clean up challenges you still face.

Specifically, the environmental condition of the Martin Pena Channel continues to be of greatest concern, as the discharge of debris, refuse, and untreated sewage has greatly impaired this important waterway.

Actions ranging from the construction of a sanitation and sewer system to dredging of the channel are planned as part of the restoration efforts, and EPA will continue to work with you as you move forward.

As all of you know first hand, the water quality challenges we face in the 21 st century are beyond the ability of any one organization or agency to solve.

President Bush and I believe that public-private partnerships are an essential tool to meeting those challenges.

Here in Puerto Rico, you are setting an important example of the success these partnerships can have B an example for other states and neighboring Caribbean nations to follow.

Working together, we can restore the San Juan Bay Estuary and protect the health of it= s waters for this and future generations.

Muchas Gracias.