St. John Marina Plan Will Change Coral Bay — Both on Water and on Shore

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Rendering of The St. John Marina – Waterside View

Coral Bay —  “The center of the St. John Marina is located at approximately 18°20’36”N, 64°42’50”W,” according to the Environmental Assessment Report for the “St. John Marina, the Yacht Club at Summer’s End.”

A marina development group has proposed to construct a 145-slip marina on a dock extending 500 feet from the shoulder of Route 107 on the south shoreline of Coral Bay Harbor. The road would remain unchanged.

The two main sections of fixed docks and piers in the marina design are proposed to extend more than 850 feet along the shoreline from north of Island Blues south past Coccoloba Shopping Center and more than 500 feet into Coral Bay Harbor. 

Summer’s End has also proposed 19 associated moorings in the outer harbor in a development plan encompassing a large portion of the existing mooring area of Coral Bay Harbor.

“The marina consists of a total of 145 slips in two zones: Zone 1 or North Club, with 96 slips of varying dimensions and Zone 2, or South Club, consisting of 49 slips of varying dimensions, 12 moorings and minor revetment repair and red mangrove planting along the shoreline immediately adjacent to the marina,” according to the EAR for the project.

The St. John Marina Site Map

Management of Mooring Field
“The applicant is entering into an agreement with DPNR and will take over the management of the mooring field in cooperation with DPNR,” the document continued. “The applicant will organize the mooring field and replace all the anchors and moorings with properly designed and installed moorings that will have negligible impact on the sea floor.”

The project also calls for the establishment of a U.S. Customs and Border Protection office in the marina’s shore component. The EAR is on file with the Department of Planning and Natural Resources Coastal Zone Management and at the Elaine I. Sprauve Library

Submerged Land Lease

Technically, the Summer’s End “CZM Application is made to enter into a submerged Land Lease Agreement covering the marina footprint,” the EAR concedes.

“Such an agreement will be made formal by a favorable ruling by CZM and the Virgin Islands Legislature and cannot be approved prior to CZM approval,” the Summer’s End EAR reads. “It is understood that a submerged land agreement is drafted by CZM after the Commission has approved a project.”

“All parties must agree with the document  and provide signatures and then it is forwarded to the Government House for review and approval, The document is sent to the Legislature for final approval.”

CZM officials have declared the application for a permit to construct the marina “complete” and are scheduling the requisite hearings and soliciting comments from the public in a process that optimistically could lead to a decision on the application as early as September, according to one CZM official.

The developers claim they already have received “unsolicited requests” for 40 of the 145 slips.

Separate Process for Landside Plans
The lengthy and expensive planning for the project has included the well-orchestrated process of securing the rights of seven upland properties on the south shore of Coral Bay with more than 800 feet of shoreline, including the shoulder of Route 107, in addition to underwriting the bureaucratic environmental review process required to develop a marina project.

“We have active agreements in place for all of the real property that is a part of the St. John marina; The Yacht Club at Summer’s End,” said Barksdale.

A 41-foot long public dinghy dock will be located between the first dock of the marina’s northernmost Zone 1 and the shoreline. The fueling station for the marina will be facing the mangroved shoreline behind the WMA bins.

Above-ground storage tanks on the upland property will hold 45,000 gallons of diesel fuel and 5,000 gallons of gasoline and will be part of a separate application, according to the EAR.

“The furthest landward slips are also offset from the shoreline at least 150 feet to take advantage of the water depth, ranging from 5 to 10 feet, avoiding the need to dredge and providing protection from propeller and propwash impacts to seagrasses between the shoreline and the marina,” the Summer’s End application reads. “In addition, the overall layout of the marina avoids any direct impacts to existing corals.”

Dock Extends 549 Feet 11 Inches
On paper, the southernmost Zone 2 dock extends 549 feet 11 inches and ends in six large boat slips. The large boat slips are 140 feet in length and end 263 feet from the nominal 100-foot wide channel which runs  about 200 feet offshore of the historic customs house point on the north side of the harbor.

The channel leads to the existing boat landing on Moravian Church shoreline property behind the Fire Station and the world famous Skinny Legs — the location of a long-simmering marina development plan.

The main dock of the proposed Summer’s End marina is depicted as starting from the shoreline opposite the former Voyages restaurant building on Route. 107, the main road to the southeastern shore of the island,

Years of Community Planning
The marina plan is the product of years of planning by Rick Barksdale and his wife Chaliese Summers, Louisiana natives who have been “full time St. Johnians” and contributed years of community involvement laying the groundwork for what would be the first St. John “marina.”

“The Summer’s End Group, LLC’s members includ(e) Summers, managing member, Rick Barksdale and Robert O’Connor, Jr. and others who love St. John… ,” according to a press release from the group. O’Connor, a respected St. John civic leader, also is the chairman of the V.I. Port Authority.

 Now that officials have informed the developers that their application is “complete,” Barksdale, who had previously declined to discuss details of the project pending the completion of the application to DPNR, was not quite ready to talk about details of the project which has consumed his and Summers’ lives for the past four years.

“We have been notified that our application has been deemed complete,” Barksdale confirmed to St. John Tradewinds on Thursday, July 18,

Seven Land Parcels in Project
The upland development associated with the project almost dwarfs the marina itself. Barksdale was reticent to discuss details of the entire plan, but a press release and the permit application provided further information.

“The St. John Marina will be developed concurrently with an upland redevelopment project on seven generally contiguous parcels in Estate Carolina in Coral Bay and is the subject of a separate Major Land Permit application,” the Summer’s End marina application reads.

“This upland redevelopment project will provide needed services for the marina, including ample off-street parking, a restaurant, Customs and Border Protection office, a marina office, marina engineering, marina security, crew shower and locker facilities, and apartments to support marina management.,” the application continues. “No boat maintenance facilities will be associated with the upland redevelopment project.”

Controlled Mooring Plan and Bar
“The most important mitigation measure will (be) establishing a long-term controlled mooring plan in Coral Bay to eliminate illegally moored and anchored boats and substandard moorings that currently are having a significant impact on sea grasses and water quality,” the application said in direct reference to Coral Bay’s notorious live-aboard neighborhood.

There are 115 boats anchored or moored, according to the marina application. (It could not be determined if that number included the half-dozen vessels sunk at moorings, grounded in the mangroves or the community’s floating bar.)

Pump-out System for Entire Bay
“The marina will require that all vessels within the marina have their heads locked so that wastewater cannot be discharged into the bay,” the EAR reads. “The marina will be providing a pump-out service that should be used by all vessels, not only in the marina but also moored in the bay.”

“The marina will be taking over the management of the bay in cooperation with the Department of Planning and Natural Resources and will be providing the pump-out service to all vessels on the moorings as part of the management fee,” according to the report.

“The Summer’s End Group will establish a public-private partnership and work cooperatively with Government and local stakeholders to implement and operate a properly designed and managed mooring system throughout Coral Bay,” the application reads.

“In a continued, long-term planning effort, Summer’s End Group has formed a Marine Uses Advisory Panel composed of individuals in varied community interest and backgrounds, especially those individuals with knowledge of Coral Bay, the marine environment and boating community,” the developers wrote.

Extensive Community Involvement
Barksdale and Summers have had extensive involvement with community projects during their years on St. John.

After almost five years of planning and study, the project now just has to make its way through the regulatory and planning processes.

“This is what a million dollars looks like,” Barksdale says of his group’s investment in the project as he plops a three-inch thick binder on the table at Deli Grotto — and adds a second binder of the same thickness to make a stack.

It will take more time, and probably more money – and there might be more paperwork.