With over 200 new vessels registered by the Department of Planning and Natural Resources during the COVID-19 pandemic, the installation of additional moorings across the U.S. Virgin Islands has become paramount to sustaining the demand for transient vessels.
At Thursday’s Senate session, the Legislature ratified a minor Coastal Zone Management permit issued to Virgin Islands Professional Charter Association, Inc. for the installation of 100 helix-type anchored moorings to be affixed to the seafloor.
The Virgin Islands Professional Charter Association, a nonprofit, was awarded a $562,000 grant from the Economic Development Authority, matched with over $308,000 raised locally, to install the moorings.
Virgin Islands Professional Charter Association Executive Director Oriel Blake said the new moorings will be installed primarily on St. Thomas, while the remaining moorings would be evenly distributed between St. Croix and St. John. The exact locations will be determined after public hearings are held, Blake said.
“I’m glad that we are trying to put some moorings because at this time so many boats have come to our shores and quite sure a lot of our corals are being destroyed at this time,” Sen. Franklin Johnson said. “People are anchoring just about any and everywhere.”
The moorings will not only reduce anchorage, Tourism Commissioner Joseph Boschulte said, but could provide a boost to tourism in the territory.
“The moorings will boost the U.S. Virgin Islands tourism industry and are expected to create or retain numerous jobs in routine surveillance, management and regular maintenance, as well as provide additional options for Virgin Islanders interested in a career in the marine industry,” Boschulte said.
The COVID-19 pandemic caused a shift to the marine industry, and Boschulte said the U.S. Virgin Islands became the destination of choice for the boating community.
“With airports and seaports closing across the Caribbean and restrictions and quarantine rules tightening, mariners were seeking a safe haven. Particularly ahead of the hurricane season,” Boschulte said.
Additionally, the Legislature ratified a separate minor Coastal Zone Management permit and sent the following measures to Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. for review:
Bill No. 34-0018, which extends the State of Emergency in the U.S. Virgin Islands due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The extension is for an additional 60 days from March 8, ending on May 7.
Bill No. 34-0010, legislation that aims to close a loophole in the gas station moratorium by directing the Department of Planning and Natural Resources to impose a five-year moratorium throughout the territory on permits issued for the construction and operation of gasoline stations.
Bill No. 34-0017, which if signed into law will resolve an obstacle to purchasing property for the Gov. Juan F. Luis Hospital by redirecting money left over from Act 7697 for the hospital’s psychiatric ward, plus $400,000 from the Community Facilities Trust Account. The funds are to be issued to the Virgin Islands Government Hospitals and Health Facilities Corporation for the acquisition of the property.
The Legislature also approved seven nominations for persons serving on various governing boards and commissions. The following nominees were sent to the governor for approval:
– Virgin Islands Board of Land Use Appeals nominee Jeffrey Boschulte
– Virgin Islands Board of Architects, Engineers and Land Surveyors nominee Jeffrey Boschulte
– Virgin Islands Board of Architects, Engineers and Land Surveyors nominee Ryan Wisehart
– Virgin Islands Coastal Zone Management Commission nominee Elissa Runyon
– The renomination of University of the Virgin Islands Board of Trustees nominee Henry Smock
– Virgin Islands Board of General Contractors nominee Julio U.B. King
– Virgin Islands Taxicab Commission nominee Franklin Brathwaite
Sens. Donna Frett-Gregory, Novelle Francis Jr., Marvin Blyden, Alma Francis Heyliger, Milton Potter, Carla Joseph, Genevieve Whitaker, Samuel Carrion, Dwayne DeGraff, Steven Payne Sr., Janelle Sarauw, Javan James Sr., Kenneth Gittens, Franklin Johnson and Kurt Vialet were present for the hearing.