As recent heavy rains have illustrated, non-point source pollution is a major problem affecting the Virgin Islands’ coral reefs and sea life.
Coral Bay Community Council President Sharon Coldren, is questioning the permitting of a subdivision along Route 107, located past the Cocoloba shopping complex which she says has contributed major sediment runoff in the past few weeks.
The 6.09-acre site, on parcel 4C Remainder in Estate Little Plantation, is being divided into eight lots and developers, Plantation Partners LLC, have all of their permits in order, according to Jamal Nielsen, spokesperson for the Department of Planning and Natural Resources.
“It’s a minor permit because it’s less than 10 lots and usually less than 10 lots is a minor permit,” Nielsen said.
Any minor permits can be considered major permits if the construction impacts natural re-sources, according to
DPNR regulations. That, however, is not the case in this instance, according to Nielsen.
“This is not impacting the en-vironment much,” said Nielsen. “There was an existing road there that they are just straightening out. They are not the only contributors to the run-off.”
“The developers have put in some sediment and erosion control measures,” Nielsen continued. “Customarily when we have heavy downpours, non-point source pollution occurs. Our people are going out there again to make sure all is in order.”
Sediment measures at the site are more than what is required by DPNR, explained local developer Eric Tillett, who is a partner in Plantation Partners.
“Our sediment and erosion control measures are above and beyond what we are required to do,” Tillett said. “The DPNR inspector has been out to the site and we’ve done everything he and DPNR wants us to do.”
The silt fence installed at the site is an example of how a silt fence should be installed, Tillett added.
“In fact, if anyone wants to learn how to install a silt fence, they should come out to our site,” Tillett said. “We dug a trench, put a fence in the trench, put stones in the trench and put rebar behind the stakes. We’re doing it correctly.”
“There is nothing wrong out there,” Tillett added.
Coldren, however, is not satisfied with the current sediment control measures.
“The National Coral Reef Task Force is here in the territory and participants are using this construction site as an example that our current practices in the Virgin Islands, despite many efforts, are not succeeding in stopping the flow of sediment in the bay,” Coldren said.
“With having one big lot, the developer has clearly tried to make sure it stayed a minor permit,” Coldren continued. “Any subdivision that will have drain-age that directly impacts the ocean, regardless of size, should come under significant Coastal Zone Management scrutiny and probably be a major permit as provided in the CZM law.”
The developers are simply trying to fix the existing road, Tillett explained.
“Right now, all we’re trying to do is fix the road so someone can drive up there,” Tillett said. “There is an existing road and we’re just fixing it.”