Boat owners scrambled to move their vessels from Cruz Bay beach on Wednesday morning, June 20, as Department of Planning and Natural Resources officials began the removal of boats, which DPNR said were illegally moored, from the beachfront and the water.
By late morning, nearly 20 boats and kayaks had been removed from the beachfront. Almost half had been thrown in the dumpster.
Salvageable boats removed from the beachfront were taken to the Susannaberg transfer station. Boat owners can pick up their vessels from the Department of Public Works after paying a $75 fine, according to Tapia.
Boats moored illegally in the water off the beach were towed to St. Thomas. Boat owners can contact DPNR’s Division of Enforcement at 774-3320.
DPNR is clearing the beach to make way for Department of Housing, Parks and Recreation’s efforts to turn Cruz Bay into a swimming beach, according to DPNR Director of Enforcement Carlos Farchette.
The owners of the vessels were notified two weeks before the removal began that the beach would be cleared, and again a week later, according to DPNR Assistant Director of Enforcement Roberto Tapia, who said he personally walked the beach in an attempt to make contact with boat owners the day before the removal of boats.
“We’ve got to start somewhere,” said Tapia. “This is serious, and everybody takes it for granted.”
Many of the boats in Cruz Bay are illegal because they are not registered and not on a legal mooring, according to Tapia.
One boat owner who keeps his vessel in Cruz Bay was surprised by DPNR’s cleanup efforts.
“It’s surprising and sudden,” said the boat owner, who had not visited his boat since notices were posted two weeks prior. “I found out today that I have to move, thanks to a phone call from a friend. I might move my boat to St. Thomas.”
“Housing, Parks and Rec is planning to install some swim buoys marking off the area for swimming,” said Farchette. “In preparation for that, we are relocating the vessels that might be conflicting with the swim area.”
Making Provisions for Businesses
DPNR officials last week met with representatives of Ocean Runner, Low Key Watersports, and Noah’s Little Arks, who all run their businesses from the Cruz Bay beach, in an effort to work out an agreement to allow the businesses to stay, explained Tapia.
“We are being real courteous in accommodating these businesses,” he said. “We are making provisions for the businesses who are already here.”
DPNR is willing to work with local boat owners, explained Tapia.
“We don’t mind working with anyone,” he said. “We’re trying our best to accommodate the businesses and boat owners, but they have to comply.”
“We just want to make sure everyone is in compliance with all our rules and regulations,” said Farchette. “We’re not getting resistance. We’re just trying to see how we can come up with a win-win situation.”
Registered liveaboards on legal moorings are allowed in Cruz Bay, provided the vessel has a holding tank, and it must be able to be moved from its mooring within one hour, explained Tapia.
Cleaning up the Chocolate Hole area is next on DPNR’s list of things to do in working toward a cleaner environment, explained Farchette.
“Chocolate Hole is our next mission,” he said. “We have to look at where boaters can dock, and there is no dinghy dock facility. The property is privately owned; we must come up with a solution.”
Island Needs Pump Out Facility
One of the major issues of liveaboard boats across St. John is the island’s lack of a pump out facility.
“We need to find out where the liveaboards are pumping their sewage, because they’re not allowed to pump into the water,” said Farchette. “I’ve been communicating with our new commissioner to try to jump start the pump out facility on the island. We’re trying to get everything environmentally friendly, and it’s going to take us a while.”
DPNR planned to continue the removal of illegally moored boats through the rest of the week, according to one enforcement officer.