The V.I. Department of Planning and Natural Resources has not completed a “partnership” to control the moorings in Coral Bay with the developers behind the St. John Marina plan, and acting DPNR Commissioner Jean-Pierre Oriol is taking a second look at the proposed agreement which is the lynch pin to the controversial mega-marina proposal.
On March 19, 2014, former Department of Planning and Natural Resources Commissioner Alicia Barnes proposed a “Public-Private Partnership” to Chaliese Summers, Managing Member of the marina developer, The Summer’s End Group, LLC., but acting Commissioner Oriol is now reviewing the status of Barnes’ official DPNR “Letter of Intent (LOI).”
Oriol, who is the Director of DPNR’s Division of Coastal Zone Management, has been serving as acting DPNR Commissioner since former Commissioner Alicia Barnes left office.
The takeover and relocation of the mooring field is an integral part of the controversial marina plan, which proposes to remove the estimated 110-plus existing moorings and install three mooring fields with a total of 75 fee-based moorings in three other areas of the bay to allow the marina developers to extend docks more than 500 feet into the center of the harbor from the southeast shore and to add 12 moorings of its own in a mooring field in the outer harbor.
The management plan also includes requiring boat owners to “lock” or secure the wastewater systems on their vessels to eliminate discharges into the bay and to use a pump-out station proposed as part of the mooring and marina plan.
The proposed cooperation between DPNR and Summer’s End for the management of the harbor moorings was emphasized in the first published reporting on the St. John Marina plan in the July 21 issue of St. John Tradewinds.
While community opposition to the marina proposal has been virulent, the proposed “partnership” between DPNR and Summer’s End for the moorings has received little attention.
Native Questions Control by Outside Entity
St. Johnian Rafe Boulon, a former DPNR and V.I. National Park official, raised the issue again in a column in the Virgin Islands Daily News on September 10:
“It all appears aimed at turning over the development and management of the Coral Bay to an outside entity with no demonstrated ability to do so or real sensitivity or understanding of the people and environment that make Coral Bay the special place it is,” wrote Boulon, a respected marine biologist.
“To me, that is unconscionable and atrocious,” Boulon continued. “I strongly urge the CZM Committee, DPNR and the Army Corps of Engineers to seriously consider the full ramifications of permitting such a thing to happen to Coral Bay.”
St. John Tradewinds Asks for Status of Mooring Plan
St. John Tradewinds asked DPNR Acting Commissioner Oriol on September 11 to comment on the status of the “Letter of Intent” for the mooring management plan in light of the expiration of the 90-day deadline imposed in former Commissioner Barne’s previously unpublished letter which reads in part:
“On behalf of the USVI Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR), we are pleased to submit the following Letter of Intent for the establishment of a Public-Private Partnership for the Mooring Management of Coral Bay Harbor,” then-Commissioner Barnes wrote on March 19, 2014.
“DPNR recognizes that Coral Bay Harbor is one of the most heavily used anchorages on the island of St. John and in the territory,” Barnes continued. “This harbor, which contains significant environmental resources, is impacted by the mooring and anchoring of vessels.”
“In an effort to address these and other environmental issues facing the Coral Bay Harbor, DPNR agrees to partner with The Summer’s End Group, LLC (SEG), the developers of the St. John Marina, to address issues rested to marine pollution (including derelict vessels), proper installation and maintenance of moorings, and enforcement of marine regulations” the letter from DPNR Commissioner Barnes continued.
“As part of this partnership, mooring locations will be properly sited, vessel amenities (such as pump out, or trash removal) will be provided, as well as other items to be agreed upon,” Barnes continued.
“By way of this letter, DPNR pledges to secure a formal agreement with SEG within 90 days receipt of this notice. You may engage my appropriate staff directly in the development of the agreement. Should you have any questions please feel free to contact me…, ” Barnes wrote Summer’s End in March.
The 90-day period would have expired in June, well before the August DPNR Coastal Zone Management committee public hearing on the proposed marina plan which was opposed by a large majority of the almost 50 testifiers at the heavily-attended August public hearing.
St. John Tradewinds reported in its July 22 issue that the Environmental Assessment Report (EAR) for the marina filed with DPNR’s Coastal Zone Management committee in the marina application stated “the marina will be taking over the management of the bay in cooperation with the Department of Planning and Natural Resources.”
“The LOI was submitted as part of our permit application,” Summer’s End partner Rick Barksdale wrote St. John Tradewinds on September 12. “What is currently in process as a part of the process of moving towards having professional management of Coral Harbor is a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA). The MOA is currently being reviewed by DPNR and legal counsel.”
DPNR officials were not available to respond to Barksdale’s characterization of the status of the negotiations between DPNR and Summer’s End for a contract for the management of Coral Bay moorings.