The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has lodged a consent decree in a federal court in Puerto Rico involving allegations that the Authority for the Port of Las Americas, Puerto Rico, violated the Clean Water Act and National Historic Preservation requirements. United States v. Auth. for the Port of The Americas, No. 12-cv-2033 (D.P.R. proposed consent decree 12/20/12). Subject to court approval, the decree is available for public comment for 30 days from the date of publication in the Federal Register. 78 Fed. Reg. 21,150 (4/9/13).
According to the consent decree, after obtaining a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit for dredge-and-fill work associated with port improvements, the Port Authority failed to comply with the permit requirements. Specifically, DOJ alleges that the Authority failed to (i) “acquire, enhance wetlands and vegetation within, preserve, and provide for the long term management of 693 acres of land”; (ii) compensate “for project impacts to seagrass habitats”; (iii) “prevent project impacts to an archaeological site” found when undertaking part of the work; (iv) “prevent project impacts to Playa de Ponce Historic District”; and (v) “comply with the required terms and conditions of the Permit resulting in potential adverse effects to federally protected Acropora spp. corals and their critical habitat under the [Endangered Species Act].”
The Authority also allegedly failed to conduct a historic property survey in a national historic district or to construct a permit-required buffer between a work site and the historic district. The consent decree further claims that the Authority relocated or modified infrastructure within the historic district, although the permit allowed no work at all within the district.
To resolve the allegations, the Authority has agreed to pay a $150,000 civil penalty and fund a $4.2-million escrow account for “In Lieu” mitigation projects to be conducted by non-profit organizations. The Authority also agreed to develop a management plan for two properties of historic significance, construct the buffer and conduct the survey called for in the permit for properties in the historic district.