CWP Visiting Coral Bay To Look at Stormwater Protection Concerns

Stormwater runoff often fills Coral Bay harbor with brown water after heavy rains, visible in the contrasting water lines above. St. John Tradewinds News Photo Courtesy of CBCC

The brown torrents of runoff which flow into Coral Bay harbor after heavy rains will soon be one step closer to becoming a thing of the past.

Representatives of the country’s premier watershed protection non-profit agency, the Maryland-based Center for Watershed Protection (CWP), will conduct field assessments in Coral Bay, from July 31 through August 2, as the first phase of developing a watershed plan and implementation strategy.

Officials from CWP — which has a contract with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Asso-ciation to work on  watershed protection in all U.S. territories — trained V.I. Department of Planning and Natural Resources staff on various aspects of nonpoint source pollution and run-off issues last year.

“This is a follow-up project and the Coral Bay watershed was chosen for this effort in the Virgin Islands,” said Sharon Coldren, president of the Coral Bay Community Council.

The grass-roots community group will work with CWP and DPNR staff to compile a list of site visits with homeowners associations, residential groups, developers with major Coastal Zone Management projects and Department of Public Works personnel to discuss stormwater, drainage, design and road maintenance issues, Coldren explained.

Action Plan
Instead of just talking, CWP’s participation signals the promise of action being taken in the effort to curb nonpoint source pollution.

“This is extremely exciting — this is real,” said Coldren. “This project is not designed to put together a plan that stays on the shelf. This is a cooperative effort amongst a number of agencies so that we can work to implement strategies and make a real difference.”

After touring sites and seeing watershed concerns first hand, CWP and DPNR will join a CBCC meeting on August 6 at the John’s Folly Learning Institute.

“The work that is done will culminate in a broad community meeting where a draft management plan will be presented,” Coldren said. “The community will be able to give feedback, suggest improvements and develop an implementation strategy.”
CWP’s work will hopefully set an example for future developments, Coldren explained.

Near-Term Projects Needed
“The CBCC has been arguing with the EPA, NOAA and DPNR to say that we really need some near-term implementation of things like stormwater retention ponds and other features so  that private developers and the general public can see that these things work and incorporate them into their planning,” she said. “We want to improve small things and big things in terms of road and stormwater drainage.”

Example for Other Watersheds
Not only will Coral Bay harbor hopefully become cleaner once a management plan and implementation strategy are developed, but other watersheds like South Gate or Gallows Bay could benefit as well, Coldren added.

CPW’s visit is the result of growing concern about stormwater issues, according to the CBCC president.

“I think this is the result of the growing and long-standing concerns of Coral Bay residents,” said Coldren. “This is always a serious concern — CBCC has heard it and DPNR has heard it directly from people. It is the culmination of a lot of local and government concerns.”

Community Support Needed
“The community showing their support by participating in the field assessments and coming to the meeting will help a lot,” she added.

To participate in the project and be on the list of site visits, call the CBCC office at 776-2099. The follow up community meeting will be on Monday, August 6, at 6 p.m. at the John’s Folly Learning Institute.