Most of the 25 people who attended a Coral Bay Community Council planning series session on Monday night, May 16, at the Guy Benjamin School were not in favor of the Virgin Islands Water And Power Authority’s new plans for the area.
Amy Dempsey of BioImpacts and Tracy Roberts of Springline Architects shared WAPA’s two-year-old plan to construct a reverse osmosis plant on parcel 14-1 Estate Fortsberg, bury a transmission line up the dirt road to Centerline Road and under Centerline Road to Parcel 6-4 Carolina.
Parcel 6-4 is a five-acre government owned piece of land just off Centerline Road, which is not currently being used by any entity. CBCC is building a stone berm in the area, as part of the group’s ongoing stormwater management project, which is designed to filter sediment out of the gut before it flows down to the valley and eventually the harbor.
WAPA got approval from Department of Property and Procurement officials to buy a three-quarter-acre piece of Parcel 6-4 Carolina on which the utility plans to build a 34-foot water storage tank and stand pipe.
WAPA is also proposing to bury a second transmission line from the Estate Fortsberg RO plant across Coral Bay harbor to the Calabash Boom neighborhood. The water pipe would exit on the beach across from Sena Mini Mart, be buried one and a third meters below the road and land in a valve box in the Calabash Boom area.
Tracy Roberts of Springline Architects, left, and Amy Dempsey of BioImpacts, right, shared WAPA’s new plans for Coral Bay at a CBCC planning series discussion meeting last week.
In the early stages of the project, WAPA looked at several different sites in the Coral Bay area for its new RO plant, explained former Senator at Large Almando “Rocky” Liburd, whose family owns the land WAPA has chosen for the project.
“It’s important to know that this project is not new,” said Liburd. “It’s hard to get water in Coral Bay and WAPA looked at several different sites. This site in Fortsberg, which my family has an interest in seems to fit.”
WAPA’s Coral Bay project is part of the utility’s 20-year plan for the territory, explained Roberts of Springline Architects.
“The plan will provide an initial footprint for potable water in Coral Bay,” said Roberts. “This is part of a 20-year master plan which was developed in 1983. This is the last piece of the puzzle and has been on the books for a long time.”
While the population of Coral Bay has risen sharply over the past decade, there is no water treatment facility in the area. Residents must catch their own water or purchase it from suppliers. To address the need, WAPA will use a grant from the Office of Insular Affairs to construct the RO plant, according to Roberts.
The RO plant would initially be capable of producing 50,000 gallons of water daily, which would eventually increase to 100,000 gallons, Roberts explained.
Residents, utilities and businesses along the transmission line, which includes Guy Benjamin School and the Coral Bay Fire Station, would be able to hook up to the water line, Roberts added.
“The school and the fire station are definitely in favor of this project,” she said.
The 34-foot water tank at Parcel 6-4 Carolina would be capable of storing 200,000 gallons of water, Roberts explained.
The site would also have plenty of space for trucks to fill up at the stand pipe and turn around, she added.
The second transmission line would land in the Johnson Bay area in a valve box in Calabash Boom, Roberts explained.
“WAPA would like to find a location for another water tank in the Calabash Boom area too,” said Roberts.
The intake line would be located about 150 feet offshore of the Estate Fortsberg site and the discharge line would be about 300 feet offshore of the site, according to Dempsey of BioImpacts, who has been working on the plan for at least two years.
“We’ve met with federal agencies already and we’ve been doing a lot of work toward this,” said Dempsey.
The scientist oversaw dye studies to track where the high-salinity plume, expected to be 75,000 gallons a day initially and increase from there, would flow from the discharge line.
“We looked at the flow under different wind and wave conditions on seven different days,” said Dempsey. “We studied current data and ran modeling to see when the discharge dissipated and where it went. We found that the salinity diffuses quickly southwest of the discharge line and is then carried out to sea in the current.”
Many residents in the audience, however, were not convinced that any plume discharged in Coral Bay harbor would in fact be carried out to sea.
“Anything you discharge inside of Johnson Reef will go into that harbor,” said one Coral Bay resident. “I don’t care what your studies showed, that is what happens.”
Other residents questioned whether a seven-day study could be used to determine the flow of discharge.
“There are 365 days and you did this study for seven days,” said the resident. “That doesn’t sound like a comprehensive research study.”
WAPA has already submitted an application to the Department of Planning and Natural Resources’ Division of Coastal Zone Management for the RO plant, Roberts explained.
“We’ve submitted a plan to the Office of Insular Affairs and they have accepted the report,” said Roberts.
“They’ve gone out to other agencies for additional information. We’ve submitted an application to CZM, not a draft copy, but four volumes of work which includes this plume study.”
“It’s taken us two years to get here,” she said.
Residents at the meeting questioned the location of the water storage tank, why a line would be buried across the bay to Calabash Boom and who would benefit from the project.
“Why is the community only now hearing about this,” asked a resident. “Where is the study to indicate how much water this community will need? How does this fit into a comprehensive look at planning and infrastructure?”
“Reliance Housing testified in court that they didn’t need any water other than their wells,” the resident said. “Are we putting this in for T-Rex and their marina?”
Residents also questioned why the community is hearing about the plan two years down the road.
“We weren’t approached two years ago and now you have this plan laid out,” said the resident. “You created an adversarial relationship if we don’t like this plan.”
Other residents expressed the need for water in their neighborhoods, which will not be serviced by WAPA’s plan.
“We need water in Salt Pond,” said the resident. “We need water everywhere. This plan doesn’t bring us water.”
“If you put a water storage tank up on Bordeaux you could gravity feed water all the way to Mandhal,” said another resident.
The project is not finalized, CZM has not granted WAPA a permit and the utility will hear what residents at the CBCC meeting thought of the plan, Roberts explained.
“This is not a done deal,” said Roberts. “We are not permitted yet. I will meet with WAPA later this week and I’ll bring all of these concerns. You are not too late to the game.”
Dempsey pledged to supply CBCC officials with her technical data, which the group planned to upload to its website www.coralbaycommunitycouncil.org. For more information call CBCC at 776-2099.