CBCC Storm Water Engineer Chris Laude
Coral Bay Community Council officials recently welcomed a new storm water engineer to oversee the group’s on-going watershed stabilization efforts.
Hailing most recently from Wilmington, North Carolina, Chris Laude moved to St. John with his wife and two sons in late June to oversee the Coral Bay community group’s storm water management projects.
Laude took over as CBCC’s storm water engineer after Joe Mina, who previously held the position, moved back stateside. As the new storm water engineer, Laude will oversee CBCC’s on-going storm water management projects, host outreach seminars for the community and work with federal and territorial regulatory agencies.
The storm water engineer’s background as the inaugural county engineer in Georgetown, South Carolina, was a perfect fit for CBCC’s needs, explained the group’s president Sharon Coldren.
“When CBCC had to go out and look for a replacement for Joe Mina, we knew it was going to be difficult to find someone who brought as much to the community,” said Coldren. “But we were delighted when we came across the resume and interviewed Chris Laude because he had so much incredibly useful experience in South Carolina running their storm water management program for the whole county.”
Facing federal and state storm water mandates, Georgetown, South Carolina, officials looked to Laude to not only create an entire program, but also a mechanism to fund that program.
“I set up a storm water management program and a storm water utility that had the ability to assess and collect fees to fund these storm water projects,” said Laude. “So if anyone wanted to develop a site, they would come to us with their plans, we would review them, do inspections and issue permits. We also had additional public education requirements from the feds so we tried to educate folks about storm water management.”
The challenges Laude faced implementing a storm water management program in the rural coastal county of Georgetown, South Carolina, are similar to those he will be facing on St. John, Coldren explained.
“Something I think is worth noting is that Georgetown County has a large geographic area and is on the Atlantic coast with only a population of 58,000,” she said. “The financial and geographic constraints he was working with are more similar to those in the Virgin Islands, than if he had come from an urban area, for instance.”
Impeccable references sealed the deal for CBCC officials, who are delighted to have Laude on board.
“When I interviewed his references from Georgetown they were so enthusiastic about him and so disappointed that he had to leave,” said Coldren. “Essentially he did a huge amount in a short amount of time and he hopes to do the same here.”
After getting the Georgetown project up and running, Laude returned to North Carolina and worked for the city of Wilmington before coming across the CBCC job posting. The challenges of the CBCC position were too enticing to pass up, he explained.
“When this job opened up, I thought it was just too much of a challenge to pass up,” he said. “Things are different here, but they are probably more similar to how things are in Georgetown, South Carolina, than one would imagine.”
Laude was hired under CBCC’s two-year $300,000 Community Action for a Renewed Environment (CARE) grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Through that grant, Laude will provide general storm water management and design work and continue CBCC’s community outreach with public seminars and workshops.
Laude is also under contract as the inspection engineer for the Coral Bay portion of the V.I. Resource, Conservation and Development Council’s multi-million dollar Watershed Stabilization in the Virgin Islands grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s ARRA funds. That grant is also funding watershed projects in Fish Bay and on St. Croix.
CBCC officials are also actively seeking additional grants to extend their EPA CARE grant for at least an additional six months, Coldren added.
While Laude has already been meeting with federal and local officials, he is excited to get to know St. John residents as he hosts upcoming seminars.
“It’s really a multi-pronged approach here,” said the storm water engineer. “One goal of the grant was to bring in expertise that wasn’t here on the island. I think you can appreciate how specialized my recent experience is. I look forward to meeting with civic groups, home owners associations, designers, engineers and architects about storm water.
While the task of stemming the tide of storm water runoff is daunting, it is not impossible, according to Laude.
“The easy part of this is that everyone knows there is a problem,” he said. “Getting to the solution is not as trivial, but is not impossible. I think some things need to be changed.”
“That is part of the reason I was brought down here — to talk to the folks who regulate storm water and let them know how other areas have been dealing with it,” Laude said.
For more information about CBCC’s storm water projects, call the group at 776 -2099.