St. John Tradewinds News

Can deJongh Administration Approve Coral Bay Mooring Changes in 2014?

 

 

Could the Coral Harbor vista change with the implementation of a public-private mooring management plan before the mega-yacht marina is considered by federal officials?

 

CORAL BAY — Can the developers of the proposed mega-yacht marina in Coral Bay take over management of the Coral Harbor mooring field, as approved by the St. John Coastal Zone Management (CZM) committee October 1 as part of their approval of the marina development plan, before federal officials have a chance to approve or disapprove the overall plan for the marina development?

V.I. Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) officials would not responding to repeated inquiries from St. John Tradewinds concerning the Coral Harbor marina project.  CZM counsel Winston Brathwaite could not be reached for comment or clarification.

“SEG has not released statements regarding timelines to begin work,” marina developer Summer’s End Group principal Chaliese Summers obfuscated in her e-mail response to St. John Tradewinds on October 30.

Opponents of the project also are not answering questions from St. John Tradewinds as they continue to raise funds to fight the CZM-approved plan and are focused on blocking the federal Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) penultimate approval of the controversial marina plan.

Can DPNR enter into an agreement with the developers of the proposed mega-yacht marina to take over management of the Coral Harbor mooring field based solely on the CZM committee’s October 1 approval of the development plan — before federalofficials have a chance to rule on the overall development plan?

DPNR acting-Commissioner and CZM Director J.P. Oriol and DPNR spokesperson Jamaal Nielsen have not responded to multiple inquiries from St. John Tradewinds since the newspaper questioned the validity of the October 1 CZM approval of the marina permit application for SEG.

The application included a 90-day “Letter of Intent” (LOI) between DPNR and the developers to draft a “Memorandum of Understanding” (MOU) for a contract granting the developers the right to relocate all Coral Harbor moorings currently in the section of the harbor SEG proposes to cover with docks.

The March 2014 LOI expired in June, more than two months before the marina permit application was considered by the St. John CZM in August and more than more than three months before CZM’s October 1 vote to approve the development project which
“The MOA is currently being reviewed by DPNR and legal counsel,” SEG principals had told Tradewinds in September before the CZM vote to approve their project.

Have DPNR Officials Awarded Mooring Contract?
Has there been any action by DPNR on the MOU for the management of moorings in Coral Bay, St. John Tradewinds e-mailed the developers in late October?

“Please speak to DPNR,” SEG partner Summers e-mailed St. John Tradewinds Oct. 30 in response to an e-question about the mooring plan.

Can DPNR Release Federal Funds to Developer?
Can DPNR release federal funds from a $1.3 million Department of Fish and Wildlife grant “to provide transient vessels healthy and available access” to the territory —which grant the agency received in 2013 “in partnership with” the marina — before federal officials rule on the controversial marina permit?

“In partnership with DPNR, the St. John Marina developers were awarded a $1.3 million Boating Infrastructure Grant (BIG) through the U. S. Department of Fish and Wildlife Services (USFWS’s) Wildlife and Sport Fishing Restoration Program in their effort to encourage recreational boating through the construction, renovation and maintenance of facilities for transient boaters,” stated the staff report to the St. John CZM drafted before the CZM’s August hearing.

O’Connor reportedly has requested the release of initial funding to begin removing the derelict vessels lining the interior shoreline of the harbor — at the same time a non-profit community group is planning to utilize a different federal grant to accomplish the same goal.

“I recommend that you speak with Mr. O’Connor regarding this as I do not believe that Mr. O’Connor requested funds to begin reorganizing the mooring field thus this is completely false,” marina development partner Summer’s responded by e-mail.
O’Connor was reported to be off-island through the end of October and not available for comment.

DPNR officials did not return repeated telephone requests through the end of the month from St. John Tradewinds.

CZM Staff Report Cited Damage from Moorings
Portions of the CZM staff report prepared for the St. John committee deliberations  on the St. John Marina application read like a promotional brochure for developers because the application is premised on a formal “partnership” between DPNR and the developers of the marina to take control of Coral Harbor moorings.

“Uncontrolled mooring within the bay and vicinity with limited facilities to serve boaters has contributed to sea grass damage, trash accumulation and water quality degradation,” the CZM July 2014 staff report continued. “Coral Harbor is designated as a mooring area by the Department of Planning and Natural Resources. The area is a heavily-used mooring and anchoring area and only a portion of the moorings are legal.”

“The area is heavily used for boat mooring and there are large scars associated with most moorings, even those with properly installed anchors; ropes with associated chains swinging from the moorings denude large areas of sea grass,” the CZM report added. “While there are new vessel scars, old vessel scars have healed and sea grass has recolonized. The habitat, while highly impacted, is capable of recovery if impacts and stresses are reduced.”

Has there been any DPNR action on the management of moorings in Coral Bay?

“(P)lease get this information from DPNR,” SEG’s Summers responded electronically Oct. 30. “It is really in their hands.”