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Issued : Tuesday, July 5, 2011 09:05 PM
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Coalition blasts newly stamped NEC plan


Members of the Northeast Ecological Corridor (NEC) Coalition stepped up their criticism of the Fortuño administration’s conservation plan for the coastal land between Luquillo and Fajardo on Tuesday, blasting the proposal as a “big lie.”

The Planning Board and Department of Natural & Environmental Resources (DNER) announced last week that Gov. Luis Fortuño had signed off on the three-parts of the plan dubbed the Great Northeast Ecological Corridor Natural Reserve.

Government officials say the plan includes 4,100 cuerdas of coast between Luquillo and Fajardo and expands the corridor to more than 9,930 cuerdas, saying that is three times the amount of land of the previous reserve approved by the Acevedo Vilá administration in 2008. That plan was scrapped by an executive order issued by Fortuño in 2008.

But NEC Coalition members said Tuesday the new plan leaves out 450 cuerdas that was set aside for conservation by the initial Avevedo Vilá administration designation. Instead, those lands have been put under zoning that allows residential and shopping center construction, they said.

A cuerda is .97 of an acre.

“The DNER and Planning Board announced the supposed protection of 9,932 cuerdas under the misleading name of ‘grand reserve’ even though there are some 6,700 people living there according to 2000 Census figures,” said Carmen Guerrero Pérez, a planner and sustainable tourism expert from the Initiative for Sustainable Development, an NEC Coalition member.

The fact that the newly designated area is bisected by PR-3, the region’s major thoroughfare, makes it clear that the “characteristics and current uses are not fitting for a natural reserve,” she said.

“It is mind-boggling that these officials have presented false information to the press and the citizenry to try to pass off this big lie of the northeast,” said Luis Jorge Rivera Herrera, a planner and environmental scientist at the Initiative for Sustainable Development.

The Planning Board has been drafting the long-anticipated plan since Fortuño issued an executive order in October 2009 that annulled an executive order by his predecessor, former Gov. Aníbal Acevedo Vilá, which created a 3,200-acre Northeast Ecological Corridor, and limited development in the area to smaller, ecotourism projects.

The previous executive order blocked the development of both the Marriott Dos Mares and the San Miguel Four Seasons. Environmentalists and community activists say the new plan reopens the door to those large-scale projects.

Planning Board President Rubén Flores Marzán has said the two large-scale resort projects proposed for the area would have to comply with the new plan and regulations before being reconsidered.

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