CBCC Members Celebrate Watershed Project Completion with NOAA

CBCC members celebrate the culmination of storm water restoration projects with NOAA officials, above. Residents read posters about each NOAA-funded project, below.

After two years and about $1.5 million, the Coral Bay watershed is flowing cleaner thanks to the completion of 18 different roadway projects designed to stem the tide of sedimentation.

Members of the Coral Bay Community Council celebrated the completion of most of the projects, funded by a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration grant, at a reception on Thursday, September 8, at the John’s Folly Learning Institute.

In March 2009, the Coral Bay Community Council, in partnership with the Estate Fish Bay Homeowners Association and the V.I. Resource Conservation and Development Council, won a $2.7 million competitive grant from NOAA, funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The money was used by the three community organizations from St. Croix and St. John to finance the USVI Coastal Habitat Restoration through Watershed Stabilization project. On St. Croix VI RC&D oversaw the restoration of a gut and the Estate Fish Bay Homeowners Association used the grant funds to pave roadways and install swales in the neighborhood.

In Coral Bay, CBCC officials worked with several home owners associations, private residents and local and federal government agencies to oversee the completion of 18 roadway projects across the watershed from Estate Hansen Bay to John’s Folly.

About 30 residents came to celebrate CBCC’s work and greet Daphne MacFarlan and Julie Royster of NOAA’s Restoration Center as well as VI RC&D president Marcia Taylor. Posters depicting each project were on display detailing the work completed in each neighborhood.

The NOAA and VI RC&D officials were on island touring the project sites and were able to see the improvements to the watershed first hand.

“It was a blessing today to see the rain and see where the water is running now and how much cleaner it is,” said MacFarlan. “These projects came about from an awesome partnership of government and non-government efforts. It’s exciting to see what can be accomplished here.”

CBCC’s portion of the grant included many components and should serve as a model for future watershed projects, explained MacFarlan.

“This is a demonstration project for us to see what works and what to learn from,” she said. “It was a busy project with a lot of moving parts but you can see the difference. We will keep continuing to tell this story and work harder and smarter in how we do restoration work.”

The project was a true partnership and could not have been accomplished without collaboration from all groups, explained CBCC president Sharon Coldren.

“These projects could not have been done without cooperation from multiple government agencies both federal and in the Virgin Islands; and people being willing to say, ‘yes, I’ll help,’” said Coldren.

Residents are already seeing a difference from the restoration work, Coldren added.

“Many residents have noticed a total difference in their watershed; there is less mud,” she said. “We saw $1.5 million worth of work and we got our $1.5 million worth. We hope to get the opportunity to continue to do more projects like these.”

The combination of expert advice from storm water engineers Joe Mina and Chris Laude, along with cooperation from government agencies and neighborhood associations spelled success for the project, Coldren explained.

“With those three components together, you can do positive things,” she said.

CBCC members took the opportunity of the celebration to thank Coldren, who has been the group’s president since its inception in 2003. Board members Joan Thomas and Bonny Corbeil presented Coldren with a plate featuring the Margaret Mead quote “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

“Sharon gets things done,” said Thomas. “She always puts the council first and we can always depend on Sharon.”

“This project would not have gotten done in Coral Bay without Sharon,” said Corbeil. “She puts in the hours of a full time job and she volunteers.”

For more information check out www.coralbaycommunitycouncil.org or call 776-2099.