Puerto Rico CSRM Feasibility Study

The Puerto Rico CSRM Study was initiated in October 2018 and was scheduled to conclude in October 2021, however a schedule extension was requested to re-evaluate the storm damage modeling and also to conduct environmental resource surveys. The extension was approved in October 2021 and the study’s new completion date is June 2024. 

This study will assess the shoreline problems and provide possible Coastal Storm Risk Management alternatives to reduce risk to infrastructure located along specific areas of Puerto Rico. The study originally considered 13 locations identified by Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DNER) to have potential for a feasibility study. These areas are located in San Juan, Carolina, Vega Baja, Arecibo, Aguadilla, Aguada, Rincón, Anasco, Mayaguez, Cabo Rojo, Loiza, Luquillo, and Humacao.

Narrowing of the study areas began with assessing areas of high density of infrastructure at risk from coastal storms which would be an indicator of high potential benefits under a Federal project.  Study scoping resulted in the following areas showing potential for Federal interest: the San Juan (Condado, Ocean Park and Isla Verde) and Rincón coastlines.



The purpose of this study is to determine whether there is Federal interest in a plan to reduce damages to property and infrastructure as a result of erosion, wave attack, and flooding from coastal storms and hurricanes along the Condado, Ocean Park, Isla Verde and Rincon coastlines. Following the study schedule extension, the study team will produce a revised draft report, which will be available for public review.  The report will consider an array of storm damage reduction alternatives and their effects under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969.


Section 204 of the Flood Control Act of 1970, Public Law 91-611 granted authority for the Puerto Rico Coastal Study. Study funds are appropriated under Title IV, Subdivision B of the Bipartisan Budget Act (BBA) of 2018, P.L. 115-123. The study will examine alternative solutions, and will recommend one plan that meets Corps criteria to be the Tentatively Selected Plan.  If the alternative is supported by Corps decisions makers, it will receive an approved Chief’s Report recommending it for construction.  The plan will then need to receive appropriations for construction.



This study considers the main problem within the San Juan and Rincon focus areas to be coastal storms causing damage to structures and infrastructure due to wave attack, flooding and erosion.

Hurricane and coastal storms are responsible for significant damages to structures and infrastructure due to wave attack, flooding and erosion for the entire island of Puerto Rico. These storm events threaten public and private properties, critical infrastructure as well as recreational and beach areas. Many structures are located along the majority of the study area, including commercial businesses, hotels, condominiums, single family homes,  in addition to roads, public parkland, and public beach access points. Loss of protective beaches and dunes, due to shoreline recession, threatens properties and infrastructure. Sea level rise and coastal storms will continue to exacerbate erosion in the study area, damaging structures and infrastructures and threatening recreational resources. Homeowners and businesses seeking to protect their property have constructed some shore protection measures, such as seawalls, large stone revetments and gabions. Some of the structures and materials used are inadequate to provide significant storm damage protection and are often constructed in an uncoordinated fashion without regard to system-wide coastal processes, exacerbating erosion on adjacent shorelines


Project Schedule  

  • December 2018 - Alternative milestone 

  • November 2022 - Tentatively selected plan milestone 

  • June  2023 - Draft report and NEPA - public technical and policy review 

  • October 2023 - Agency decision milestone 

  • May  2024 - Final report - State and agency review 

  • June 2024 - Chief of Engineers report 

  • 2024 - Initiate Pre-construction engineering and design (Tentative) 

  • 2026 – Initiate construction (Tentative) 


The Recommended Plan in Rincón is Alternative 4, which proposes acquisition of the most vulnerable structures along the shoreline, which are predicted to fail from erosive forces and be condemned by local government due to safety issues in the near future.  With this plan, 71 high-risk structures along approximately 1.1 miles of shoreline would be included for fee acquisition and residents would be given compensation to leave their homes prior to complete structural failure of their homes, and they would be provided relocation assistance. The structures would be removed, and the land would be returned to its natural sandy state which would involve filling in the newly acquired properties with beach-quality sand (if needed) and revegetation with native species.  With this restored shoreline buffer, the local government along with the community would be afforded space and time to establish a long-term shoreline management plan and put that plan into effect. This plan would not require mitigation and additionally would re-establish habitat, eventually creating 17 acres of beach and small dune habitat for nesting sea turtles, shoreline birds, and other species. The sandy shoreline would be allowed to naturally recover and would ensure that the tourism-based regional economy could thrive into the future by maintaining local tourism spending.  The plan uses nature-based and non-structural solutions and is also supported by the Governor of Puerto Rico, the Mayor of Rincón, and the Secretary of DNER.  The plan would positively affect the town of Stella, in large part as it would increase natural aesthetics and restore cultural identity of the community. The cost to benefit ratio for this plan is less than 1.0, and as such per USACE policy, an exception has been requested approved by the Assistant Secretary of the Army, Civil Works.  

In Ocean Park, where coastal flooding is the primary problem, Alternative 2 was the tentatively selected plan in the June 2023 draft report.  However, Alternative 5 is now the recommended plan.  Alternative 5, which was included in the final array of alternatives, is the same as Alternative 2, with additional fee acquisition of six townhomes and one vacant property west of Barbosa Park. Since the release of the Draft Report in June 2023, USACE determined the initially-proposed flood protection levee easements over these properties were likely insufficient and fee acquisition is required due to the uncertainty of duration of property inaccessibility (if floodgates are not removed in a timely manner by the local government) and for the potential to induced flooding,. The expanded fee acquisition and relocation assistance to those homeowners, changes the recommended plan from Alternative 2 to Alternative 5. This change results in a cost increase and a benefit to cost ratio less than 1 but is identified as the total benefits plan. Additional analyses will be performed during Preconstruction Engineering and Design (PED) to confirm if the assumptions still warrant acquisition of these properties, and if needed, design changes could be made at that time. This plan would greatly reduce the risk of coastal flooding to Ocean Park, with the installation of the floodwalls at the most critical areas, Barbosa Park and the skate park. This plan would continue to allow for use of the beach in front of the floodwall at Barbosa Park, and also allow public access over it to maintain existing accessibility to the beach park. Additionally, business disruption due to coastal flooding is reduced and life safety risk is reduced as a result of this plan.  Fee acquisition of the 8 properties west of Barbosa Park and restoration of them to a natural environment would increase beach and small dune habitat by approximately 1 acre.  The cost to benefit ratio for this plan is less than 1.0, and as such per USACE policy, an exception has been requested by the Assistant Secretary of the Army, Civil Works and is pending approval. 

Study Status and Updates The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) Puerto Rico Coastal Study is investigating the coastal storm risks in the areas of Ocean Park and Rincon to identify long-term solutions to impacts from coastal storms and sea level rise. The USACE released a Draft Report in November 2020 with a tentative plan to reduce coastal storm risk due to erosion, coastal flooding, and wave attack. Since then, the study schedule has been extended to conduct additional technical analyses and environmental resource surveys.   USACE released a revised Draft Report for public review and comment in June 2023. The June 2023 revised Draft Report  introduced tentatively selected plans in both Rincon, where the primary problem is erosion, and Ocean Park, where the primary problem is coastal flooding. The tentatively selected plan (TSP) in Rincon was Alternative 4, Acquisition of vulnerable structures; the tentatively selected plan in Ocean Park was Alternative 2, Floodwalls (Barbosa Park and Las Marias Skate Park). 

Since the draft report was released, feedback from the non-federal sponsor (DNER), communities, and policy reviewers have led to refinements of the TSP in both reaches and an endorsement of a recommended plan.  The recommended plan in Rincon is Alternative 4, and the recommended plan in Ocean Park has changed from Alternative 2 (as presented in the draft report) to alternative 5 (Floodwalls with expanded acquisition).  More information on these plans can be found in the “Recommended Plan” tab on this website.  

The 2022 benthic habitat and species (environmental) surveys conducted illustrated the high quality and diverse nature of the nearshore coral reef complexes and the presence of sensitive and endangered species. This information was vital for both selecting the best comprehensive plan and obtaining compliance from natural resource agencies. 



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The following questions and answers pertain to the Rincon reach. 



Why is this project being recommended in Stella?  


After consideration of engineering, economic, environmental, and social factors, the recommended plan for the Rincón Planning Reach is acquisition of approximately 70 parcels along the Rincón shoreline from R11 to R19, or just south of Quebrada Los Ramos to just north of the Condominio Costa Corcega. These properties are the most vulnerable, and modeling predicted that 75% of these structures would be severely impacted by hurricanes and storms and would be condemned for safety reasons within the next 25 years, given the high levels of predicted damage. Additionally, these structures were shown to have an adverse effect on the coastal system from associated erosion damages and are recommended to be acquired. The acquired properties would be reestablished as natural coastline (beach) that would support environmental enhancement, public recreation, and future economic growth and stability. Once acquired, these properties would become part of the maritime terrestrial zone and future development would be prohibited, ensuring the beach area remains natural, open to the public, and undeveloped.  


How was the acquisition footprint developed?  


The proposed alternative and structure acquisition footprint were selected based on numerous factors, the most significant of which are described below. First, the study team considered predicted structure damages from planning models and their physical location in relation to the existing water line. Additionally, the team considered potential impacts to natural coastal processes (at present and into the future) due to coastal armoring or structures that exacerbate erosion. The study team also aimed to avoid adverse impacts to environmental resources (such as nearshore vegetation beds and hardbottom corals and sponges), and to restore sandy beach areas for sea turtle nesting and shoreline bird habitat.  


What is the process for homeowners in the acquisition footprint if this plan is implemented?  


If this plan is implemented, homeowners would negotiate selling prices for their home, based on fair market value and if they qualify, they would be provided relocation assistance to move to new homes. An essential part of this plan is that homeowners are given compensation for their homes at fair market value while homes are in peak condition, prior to catastrophic damages occurring to homes from hurricanes and storms.  Information about the acquisition process can be found in the real estate acquisition brochure located on the study website. 


How do we know what environmental resources are in the area? 


A team of marine scientists conducted in situ identifications of submerged resources and delineated and mapped submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) and hardbottom habitat, endangered species act (ESA) listed corals, and other important marine resources occurring within the Rincón study area. The benthic resource surveys were conducted during three separate field efforts occurring from 17 July to 9 October 2022. Inventories identified extensive coral reef and SAV resources in Rincón. Mantee and sea turtles were both observed feeding in the area. The benthic assessment and shoreline structure survey also identified and delineated resources as essential fish habitat (EFH) within the project area. The Final Environmental Survey Report was received on 31 January 2023.  The survey report was valuable to refining assumptions for the study analysis and is posted on the study webpage. Based upon the results of benthic habitat and species mapping and characterization surveys, the Rincón area provides diverse aquatic habitats.  This survey report is available to the public for use and is posted on the study website. 



What are the environmental resources in the area?  


The existing nearshore supports an ever shifting, diverse physical and biological nearshore aquatic grassland and coral reef system; however, the shoreline has been modified in the past. ESA-listed coral species were located and identified, being found on the Shelf Edge Reef well offshore. The natural sand source and aggradation of beach is ephemeral over time. Natural conditions for nesting sea turtles would be ephemeral, which is the nature of the beach. Leatherback sea turtles were recorded in the past nesting when a wide enough beach would form. In general, conditions for nesting sea turtles, native birds, and native vegetation have been removed or are limited by human disturbance via residential, commercial, and recreational activities on/near the beach, including encroachment, clearing, lighting, and noise. The Corps survey and USFWS information indicate that the species and relative abundance of native sponges present provide a source of food for adult sea turtles. There are also extensive seagrass beds that were found to be providing a food source for the Antillean Manatee. 



What other alternatives were considered?  


This study assessed feasible long-term coastal storm risk management solutions (over a 50-year period) that included but were not limited to coastal armoring, nearshore and shoreline sand impoundment structures (e.g., breakwaters and groins), various sand nourishment designs (with and without structures as mentioned above), and non-structural management measures (acquisition). Artificial reefs and enhancement of natural reef structures were considered and are generally more successful when paired with beach nourishment.  The artificial reefs/natural reefs can help to alleviate wave energy, allowing sand from beach nourishment to stay on the beach more effectively.  This option was investigated early in the study – however, artificial reefs on their own will not ensure that sand will return or effectively stay in place. Coastal armoring is a measure that may exacerbate erosion around the study area, resulting in unwanted adverse impacts to adjacent shorelines. Additionally, when previously proposed, this was not supported by the local community or by DNER. Beach nourishment was thoroughly investigated as part of this study. The Rincón area has a very large, historical sand deficit, meaning a large quantity of sand would be required for initial construction (or paired with sand impoundment structures) and the project would require continuous maintenance. Modeling results showed that sand replenishment would be required approximately every 5 years, creating continuous direct and indirect impacts to the emergent, nearshore and offshore habitats over the 50-year project life.  



Why isn’t beach nourishment recommended?  

All feasible costal storm risk reduction measures were considered during this study. Beach nourishment in particular was thoroughly investigated as an alternative. Beach nourishment in Rincón is highly expensive and not an environmentally acceptable or sustainable solution. The Rincón project area has a very large, historical sand deficit meaning a large quantity of sand would be required for initial construction (or paired with sand impoundment structures) and the project would essentially require continual maintenance.   Groins, shoreline perpendicular rock structures, paired with beach nourishment were investigated and modeling results showed that together they would hold sand in place for approximately 5 years before needing another periodic nourishment.  The continuous dredging operations needed to maintain the beach would adversely impact the emergent, nearshore and offshore habitats over the 50-year project life. The long-term, environmentally damaging effects of getting the sand from the offshore sand source paired with the high cost makes this plan not preferred, and therefore not recommended.  


What borrow sources were considered for the beach nourishment alternative? 


Numerous potential borrow areas (upland and offshore) were thoroughly investigated; however, none were found to have sufficient sand volume required for the project. As an example, Bajo Blanco was determined to not be a suitable borrow source due to the low volume of sand and since dredging may adversely impact local coastal hydrodynamics and the adjacent coastal resources such as the submerged resources and habitat within the marine preserve. The only suitable borrow area found is located approximately 30 miles south of the project area (Cabo Rojo), which is in close proximity to offshore marine resources and would be very expensive to dredge, transport and place the material along the beach. Nearshore and shore-connected coastal structures would also likely cause adverse issues to downdrift beaches by cutting off any sand supply that may currently exist in the area.  


What were the tradeoffs considered with other alternatives?  


All feasible coastal storm risk reduction measures were evaluated during this study for a 50-year period of analysis. After initial screening of alternatives, this study included a detailed evaluation of the following alternatives: 1. No action, 2. Rock armoring (revetment), 3. Beach nourishment (with and without coastal structures such as groins) and 4. Acquisition of coastal structures. The planning level cost estimate (during the plan comparison phase) for acquisition was estimated to be $110M, which was close to the cost of rock revetment (~$110M) and less than a beach nourishment and groin plan (~$194M). Since that time, the cost of acquisition has been refined, and is currently ~$140M. This is still less costly than a beach nourishment/groin project, and while the beach nourishment project would involve impacts to the nearshore and offshore habitats and potentially species, the proposed acquisition plan would generally increase critical upland habitat with little to no nearshore or offshore impacts. From a benefit-to-cost ratio (BCR) perspective, the recommended plan has a 0.20 BCR (including recreation benefits), which means the federal government is paying $.80 to every dollar spent, in order to provide homeowners a means to get money back on their investments now before it is too late, and to begin the process of sustainable coastal management along this section of the Puerto Rico coastline. All other plans had a BCR well below this amount and did not provide the comprehensive benefits that this plan provides.  


What would be the expected impacts on Rincón's community and economy without the recommended plan?  


In the absence of a plan, homes along the coastline in the identified areas are expected to be completely lost to the ocean and/or condemned due to safety reasons as a result of erosion, likely resulting in significant loss to associated homeowners. Under such devastating circumstances, property owners will likely experience significant financial losses and may be required to relocate due to structural instability of homes. Once homes are damaged to the point of being condemned, homeowners may not be able to receive compensation for their homes, or assistance to relocate.   Further, large portions of the beach will be inaccessible due to the resulting safety issues with the remnants of the destroyed structures, further impacting the limited environmental resources and recreational areas.  Structures would become derelict if not removed, which would further exacerbate wave energy, resulting in increased erosion to the surrounding shorelines.  


What would be the expected impacts on Rincón's Community and Economy with the recommended plan? 


This plan will afford homeowners with structures most at risk to erosion, the time and incentive to relocate in a coordinated effort before structural failure of homes occurs in a piecemeal fashion. The newly established, publicly accessible shoreline will function as a natural buffer, allowing time and physical space for Puerto Rico government entities to sustainably manage the shoreline and increase coastal resiliency into the future. The sandy shoreline would support the tourism-based regional economy into the future by maintaining $3,372,000 each year (over a 50-year period of analysis) worth of local tourism spending. The plan does not require mitigation but would instead accrue 4.14 average annual habitat units for shoreline species (such as nesting sea turtles, shoreline birds, native dune plants, insects and other small animals) within the acquisition footprint (creating 17 acres of beach habitat). This plan improves several social factors, including health and safety, social vulnerability and resilience, community cohesion and cultural identity by allowing the community of Stella to thrive with the renewal of a beach and removal of unsafe and unsightly structures, stopping and reversing the spread of decline in the community. This plan allows the southern part of Rincón to remain connected culturally and economically to the northern part of Rincón.  


How will the shoreline be managed after the recommended plan is implemented? 


The responsibility of future action to manage the shoreline will be with DNER.  The future erosion rate is dependent on many variables.  For example, the erosional trends in Rincón could continue as they historically have with seasonal and short-term shifts in the shoreline change rate as well as potential future impacts associated with sea level change. The removal of existing coastal structures and armoring could also reduce the historical erosion rate and allow the coastal system to naturally recover following erosional events.  The study used coastal modeling results to predict timelines and thresholds for DNER to manage the shoreline.  It is strongly recommended that DNER with the support of the local Rincón municipality monitor the shoreline erosion using the guidelines as recommended in the study and enforce no construction in the newly established coastal zone, to allow coastal processes to occur naturally and provide resilience to the community. 



Is this plan in line with the administration’s priorities for coastal resilience?  


This plan is consistent with Executive Orders and Administration priorities of coastal resilience. This plan is also in line with the coastal resiliency initiative as outlined in the Governor of Puerto Rico’s Administrative Bulletin Number OE-2023-009 (11 April 2023).  



Did the study consider local canal contributions to erosion?  


This study analyzed all existing coastal modeling, coastal engineering, and other reports as a part of the background data collection procedure. Federal coastal storm risk management feasibility studies are scoped to include cross-shore change modeling and economic modeling as detailed in Appendix A (Engineering) and Appendix D (Economics). Large river outflows that impact the study area were considered as a part of the existing documentation review and potential erosion/accretion concerns. Quebrada Los Ramos is the canal that drains the area’s upland watershed and was assessed during this study. Other aspects that relate to existing condition problems and potential future with-project performance, such as smaller local drainage outfalls or canals, were also considered during the feasibility process. Of note, there is no current data that supports or indicates that the Quebrada Los Ramos canal or any other canals are the main cause of beach erosion within the study area. 




Why weren't the areas with homes already affected by erosion (further south) included in the recommended plan? 


This plan will be most effective if a large swath of land is achieved to be used as a beach/buffer for natural coastal processes.  Farther south, there are some isolated structures that would not contribute to the continuity of this project. There were condominiums that were excluded due to the large cost of buying out all residents and the relatively small shoreline segments. Further, those condominium units appear to have large-scale seawalls installed that would provide increased protection to the upland properties. The plan assumes those coastal protection measures and properties would continue to be managed by the condominium owners and/or associations. 


What happens next? 


As of this time, the feasibility study is expected to be completed in June 2024 with a Chiefs Report.    Following the completion of the feasibility study in June 2024, if funding is appropriated by Congress, the proposed project could potentially move forward to the next phase which is pre-construction, engineering and design (PED). During the PED phase, which is prior to construction, the team would conduct shoreline surveys, collect additional data, and work with the community to help to refine the footprint for the project to the minimum extent practicable.  In order for the project to move forward into construction, the project would need to be both authorized in a Water Resources and Development Act (WRDA) and have funds appropriated by Congress.  




Community Meetings/ Reuniones comunitarias


Real Estate Considerations brochure    ENGLISH 


Report Release & Public Meetings

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) Puerto Rico Coastal Study is investigating the coastal storm risks in the areas of Ocean Park and Rincon to identify long-term solutions to impacts from coastal storms and sea level rise. The USACE released a Draft Report in June 2023, and expects to release the Final Report in summer 2024. More information on the status and recommended plans can be found in the “study status and updates” tab on this website.

Puerto Rico Coastal Draft Integrated Feasibility Report and Environmental Assessment - June 2023
PRCS_Draft Main Report and EA-June_2023
PRCS_Appendix_F_Plan Form June_2023
_June 2023

Contact Information

Please contact the study team at: PuertoRicoCoastalStudy@usace.army.mil

2018 Bipartisan Budget Act

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers received disaster funds provided in Public Law 115-123, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018. The act provides nearly $17.4 billion to the Corps for disaster recovery.

Jacksonville District received $3.348 billion for long-term recovery investments in its area of responsibility, which includes Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. This funding will go toward 13 studies, and 22 projects that will reduce risk to communities damaged by storm events. The total Federal funding allocation for Jacksonville District recovery efforts so far exceeds $4 billion.

Additional information can be found here

Community Meetings

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District, hosted a Public Open House with the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources in Rincon on September 13, 2022 at Ventana al Mar. The purpose of the Open House was to share the latest study status updates since release of the Draft Report in November 2020.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District, hosted a Public Open House with the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources in San Juan on Sept. 14, 2023 at Union Church. The purpose of the Open House was to share the latest study status updates since release of the Draft Report in November 2020.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District hosted an open house meeting for the Puerto Rico Coastal Study on June 18, 2023, at the Ventana Al Mar Convention Center in Rincon, Puerto Rico. The purpose of this meeting was to provide updates referent to the initial scoping process. The public was informed about the criteria used in narrowing of the study areas in order to select focus areas with possible Federal interest. As a result of this preliminary screening, the Puerto Rico Coastal study will focus on parts of the San Juan and Rincon coastlines. The San Juan coastline encompasses approximately 8 miles of shoreline from El Boqueron to Boca de Cangrejos and the Rincon coastline includes approximately 2.5 miles from Punta Ensenada to south of Stella, including Corcega. In addition, the team is considering if there is possible federal interest to protect a segment of the major hurricane/tsunami evacuation routes in Mayaguez (PR-102) and Humacao (Hwy 3). Approximately 100 people attended the open house, with good participation during the public comments hour.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District hosted a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) scoping meeting for the Puerto Rico Coastal Storm Damage Reduction Study Nov. 6, 218 at the El Teatro Manuel Mendez Ballester in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. The purpose of the scoping meeting was to present and discuss the production of a NEPA document for the feasibility study, and to assess the effects of potential alternatives to reduce coastal storm damages to infrastructure along the coast of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. The scoping meeting aides in determining the scope of the NEPA analysis and any potentially significant issues. The Corps of Engineers welcomes views, questions, comments, concerns and suggestions. The Corps believes this study will benefit significantly from public involvement and encourages participation in the NEPA scoping process.