SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — A fund to compensate Puerto Rico for damages from a 1994 oil spill will be used to build an artificial reef, create a shoreline nature reserve and restore the walls of a Spanish colonial fort, trustees said Sunday.
Nearly $10 million for restoration projects was included in a settlement with those responsible for a barge that ran aground off the coast of San Juan, spilling 750,000 gallons of heavy oil. For weeks, the oil slick stained beaches and lagoons around the capital’s reef-fringed coast.
Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila said the projects mark a turning point in the island’s recovery.
“We have learned that a positive outcome can result from a negative event,” Acevedo said.
In an effort to restore sealife habitats, cement modules will be installed in a lagoon one mile from the grounding site to create a reef. Marine sediment will also be used to fill dredge holes and boost the recovery of seagrass.
About $2.6 million will be used to buy 270 acres of private shoreline property for use as a nature reserve. The land east of San Juan is home to more than 40 species of rare plants and animals, including endangered leatherback sea turtles, officials said.
An oceanside walkway along the 16th century Fort San Felipe del Morro will be extended, and about 25,000 square feet of its walls will be cleaned and restored.
The Morris J. Berman barge spilled half its load of heating oil when it smashed into a coral reef on Jan. 7, 1994. Under a settlement with the U.S. government, the Caribbean Petroleum Corporation and two insurers were required to reimburse federal and local governments for the cost or removing the oil from beaches and Caribbean waters.