CBCC Receives NOAA Grant to Remove Derelict Vessels in Coral Bay Harbor

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The Coral Bay Community Council (CBCC) announces receipt of $90,000 in grant funds from the NOAA Marine Debris Program and NOAA Restoration Center for a significant marine debris removal project in Coral Bay, St. John, US Virgin Islands. The project is focused on removing derelict vessels in Coral Harbor and cleaning up marine debris along shorelines, in mangroves and in the boat mooring areas. CBCC has committed to providing in-kind services and funds for a total project value of nearly $140,000. CBCC is currently seeking to hire an employee to manage this project and other functions.

“For decades, on an on-going basis, cleanup, removal and disposal of marine debris, and rescue of grounded vessels  (two sailboats were rescued after T.S. Bertha recently),  have been accomplished by boaters, the Coral Bay Yacht Club members, the Coral Bay Community Council and other community volunteers.  The moorings maintainer, charter boat captains, marine services store, and shoreline restaurants all participate.  However these volunteers have been frustrated by the lack of funding to remove the grounded and sunken wrecks that leave visitors with the erroneous conclusion that Coral Bay’s boaters don’t care environmentally…,” said Sharon Coldren, President of the Coral Bay Community Council.  “This federal NOAA grant funding for derelict vessel removal will raise the morale of all who continuously work to keep the bay clean.”

The main task in this Coral Bay Community Council project is to remove abandoned and derelict vessels from Coral Harbor. For a variety of reasons, over the last 25 years since Hurricane Hugo, approximately one dozen grounded vessels have not been removed.  These vessels pose an environmental hazard, which can be prevented with removal.  For instance, serious storm waves could move the vessels causing battering of the surrounding mangroves and stripping the seagrasses.  

This project will allow seagrass to regrow and mangroves to put down new roots, returning the area to more pristine conditions. The mangroves, seagrasses, and corals of Coral Harbor are rich and unique thriving nursery habitats known for their wildlife diversity:  For example, black tip reef sharks and lemon sharks use these shallow waters for birthing and first year habitat.  Endangered sea turtles live in the flourishing seagrass meadows that cover most of Coral Harbor seafloor, along with many species of fish.

The Council will work with the Coral Bay Yacht Club, the primary community partner in this project, the VI Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR), and others to complete this NOAA-funded project over the next 18 months.  
 
The Council will work within the DPNR regulatory process to declare a boat abandoned, includes newspaper advertising.  A competitive contracting process will be used to solicit bids from qualified and insured local marine salvage contractors. The contractor will be responsible for maximizing the number of derelict grounded vessels safely removed and disposed of, given the grant funds available. Contractor selection will be done in consultation with DPNR, NOAA, and other experts.  “We hope there will be enough grant funds for a contractor to remove all of the existing derelict vessels – if not, we will seek private dollar contributions to remove the rest of them as part of the same contract,” said Sharon Coldren, President of CBCC.

The University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) Center for Marine and Environmental Studies will also participate.  One or more graduate students, receiving stipends via the grant, will conduct environmental monitoring to assess the impacts of removal efforts on Coral Bay’s diverse marine habitats. The students will use their experience to provide public outreach and education to heighten the community conservation ethic and the protection of marine habitats.  Dr. Tyler Smith, Associate Professor, will supervise the student environmental monitoring.  Dr. Smith’s faculty time will be provided pro bono as part of UVI’s community service.
To reduce future locally-generated marine debris, the Coral Bay Community Council will start a marine debris reduction and reporting program. The program will include all kinds of debris– from litter thrown into ghuts and along roads to awareness of incidental oil/fuel spills by boats and outboard engines, and reducing the number of abandoned floating boats.
As part of the community in-kind matching funds (which place a dollar value on volunteer work), the Coral Bay Community Council is planning volunteer clean-up efforts at selected shoreline and mangrove area locations in cooperation with Coral Bay Yacht Club members, the Kids and the Sea program (KATS), and the John’s Folly Learning Institute.  The Friends of the VI National Park is also contributing the value of their annual International Coast Weeks all-island volunteer cleanup to this effort – acknowledging the importance of this derelict vessel removal project for St. John.  Watch for announcements about these clean-ups and come participate.  All community or church groups are welcome to join in volunteering in these clean ups to help preserve Coral Bay’s valuable marine environment.

For further information please contact CBCC at coralbaycommunitycouncil@hotmail.com or call the office at 776-2099.

 

“For decades, on an on-going basis, cleanup, removal and disposal of marine debris, and rescue of grounded vessels (two sailboats were rescued after T.S. Bertha recently), have been accomplished by boaters, the Coral Bay Yacht Club members, the Coral Bay Community Council and other community volunteers. The moorings maintainer, charter boat captains, marine services store, and shoreline restaurants all participate. However these volunteers have been frustrated by the lack of funding to remove the grounded and sunken wrecks that leave visitors with the erroneous conclusion that Coral Bay’s boaters don’t care environmentally…,” said Sharon Coldren, President of the Coral Bay Community Council. “This federal NOAA grant funding for derelict vessel removal will raise the morale of all who continuously work to keep the bay clean.”

 

The main task in this Coral Bay Community Council project is to remove abandoned and derelict vessels from Coral Harbor. For a variety of reasons, over the last 25 years since Hurricane Hugo, approximately one dozen grounded vessels have not been removed. These vessels pose an environmental hazard, which can be prevented with removal. For instance, serious storm waves could move the vessels causing battering of the surrounding mangroves and stripping the seagrasses.

 

This project will allow seagrass to regrow and mangroves to put down new roots, returning the area to more pristine conditions. The mangroves, seagrasses, and corals of Coral Harbor are rich and unique thriving nursery habitats known for their wildlife diversity: For example, black tip reef sharks and lemon sharks use these shallow waters for birthing and first year habitat. Endangered sea turtles live in the flourishing seagrass meadows that cover most of Coral Harbor seafloor, along with many species of fish.

 

The Council will work with the Coral Bay Yacht Club, the primary community partner in this project, the VI Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR), and others to complete this NOAA-funded project over the next 18 months.

 

 

 

The Council will work within the DPNR regulatory process to declare a boat abandoned, includes newspaper advertising. A competitive contracting process will be used to solicit bids from qualified and insured local marine salvage contractors. The contractor will be responsible for maximizing the number of derelict grounded vessels safely removed and disposed of, given the grant funds available. Contractor selection will be done in consultation with DPNR, NOAA, and other experts. “We hope there will be enough grant funds for a contractor to remove all of the existing derelict vessels – if not, we will seek private dollar contributions to remove the rest of them as part of the same contract,” said Sharon Coldren, President of CBCC.

 

The University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) Center for Marine and Environmental Studies will also participate. One or more graduate students, receiving stipends via the grant, will conduct environmental monitoring to assess the impacts of removal efforts on Coral Bay’s diverse marine habitats. The students will use their experience to provide public outreach and education to heighten the community conservation ethic and the protection of marine habitats. Dr. Tyler Smith, Associate Professor, will supervise the student environmental monitoring. Dr. Smith’s faculty time will be provided pro bono as part of UVI’s community service.

 

To reduce future locally-generated marine debris, the Coral Bay Community Council will start a marine debris reduction and reporting program. The program will include all kinds of debris– from litter thrown into ghuts and along roads to awareness of incidental oil/fuel spills by boats and outboard engines, and reducing the number of abandoned floating boats.

 

As part of the community in-kind matching funds (which place a dollar value on volunteer work), the Coral Bay Community Council is planning volunteer clean-up efforts at selected shoreline and mangrove area locations in cooperation with Coral Bay Yacht Club members, the Kids and the Sea program (KATS), and the John’s Folly Learning Institute. The Friends of the VI National Park is also contributing the value of their annual International Coast Weeks all-island volunteer cleanup to this effort – acknowledging the importance of this derelict vessel removal project for St. John. Watch for announcements about these clean-ups and come participate. All community or church groups are welcome to join in volunteering in these clean ups to help preserve Coral Bay’s valuable marine environment.

 

For further information please contact CBCC at coralbaycommunitycouncil@hotmail.com or call the office at 776-2099.

 

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CBCC Background and Purpose

 

In 2003, the Coral Bay Community Council, Inc. (CBCC) was founded as a volunteer-initiated, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization to provide residents with a means of participating in planning the future of Coral Bay development, including land and water use planning, infrastructure, and environmental issues. CBCC’s webmaster maintains an expansive website (www.coralbaycommunitycouncil.org) of information on CBCC’s efforts to accomplish its goals. CBCC’s mission has strongly resonated with the community with 400 residents and landowners joining the organization and providing more than $32,000 in dues and donations support in 2013. Residents, whether members or not, frequently volunteer at CBCC cleanups and other volunteer efforts. Cleanups occur routinely, and whenever there are special circumstances, hosted by CBCC and other organizations.

 

From the beginning of CBCC, the most widely-held concern was the need to address threats, such as sedimentation and marine debris, to the beautiful blue waters and important marine nursery habitat in Coral Bay. After first soliciting help from DPNR, CBCC approached the NOAA and EPA for assistance. In 2007, NOAA funded the Coral Bay Watershed Management Plan (WMP) as a DPNR pilot watershed plan. CBCC then received a $300,000 EPA CARE grant from 2009 to 2011 to carry out the objectives in the WMP, resulting in the Coral Bay Watershed Management project (http://coralbaycommunitycouncil.org/Watershed-Management-project.htm). The CARE grant enabled the community to initiate innovative solutions and leverage monies from numerous partners and stakeholders to carry out the watershed plan.

 

In 2009, working with a local nonprofit lead partner, the Virgin Islands Resource Conservation and Development Council,CBCC was part of a $1.5 million NOAA-ARRA grant to restore natural drainage functions and pave roads in order to eliminate or reduce the sediment-laden stormwater runoff plumes entering the bay. This work was completed in 2011.

 

In 2013, CBCC received a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Coral Reef Conservation Fund and its funding partner, NOAA, to update the existing Coral Bay Watershed Management Plan, published in 2008, using the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Handbook for Developing Watershed Plans to Restore and Protect Our Waters. For 2013-2015, CBCC has received grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for solid waste, wastewater, and water supply planning, as part of CBCC’s overall Watershed Management Project. One project is a planning activity designed to analyze the management of solid waste in Coral Bay and investigate the effects using dumpsters has on Coral Bay’s shoreline mangrove and water resources. The project will provide a plan describing Coral Bay’s current solid waste management practices and outlining options for managing solid waste in an integrated manner in the future.

 

Environmental Background Information:

 

 

 

Habitats: mangroves, coral reefs, seagrass beds

 

 

 

Threatened and Endangered Species:

 

Leatherback Turtle (E), Green Turtle (T),

 

Hawksbill Turtle (E),

 

Sperm Whale (E),

 

Finback Whale (E),

 

Elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata) *(T, CH)

 

Staghorn coral (Acropora cervicornis)* (T, CH)

 

and proposed species for new classifications:

 

Boulder star coral (Montastraea annularis),

 

Mountainous star coral (Montastraea faveolata),

 

Pillar coral (Dendrogyra cylindrus),

 

Rough Cactus Coral (Mycetophyllia ferox),

 

Star coral (Montastraea franksi),

 

Lamarck’s Sheet Coral (Agaricia lamarcki),

 

Elliptical Star Coral (Dichocoenia stokesi)

 

(* proposed to be reclassified from threatened to endangered.)

 

 

 

Essential Fish Habitat: corals, queen conch, reef fish, Caribbean reef shark, lemon shark, sailfish, and longbill spearfish, and numerous species managed by NOAA under the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act.

 

 

 

Additionally, specific Fisheries Management Plans exist for reef fish, spiny lobster, queen conch, coral, and billfish and highly migratory species.

 

 

 

The Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument occurs in the eastern portions of Coral Bay and at Drunk Bay at the southwestern end of Coral Bay, under the management of the Virgin Islands National Park.