The scenery may soon be looking a little greener at the Enighed Pond Marine Facility, thanks to St. Croix-based BioImpact, which began mitigation of mangroves at the port in August.
Mitigation of mangroves that were destroyed during Enighed’s construction, which extended into wetlands, is required by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
BioImpact was selected in June by the Virgin Islands Port Authority through a bidding process. The company submitted the lowest bid at $77,665 for the project, which calls for the planting of mangroves on a six-acre portion of the facility.
“One of the things we had to do for the mitigation is basically create the entire eastern area into a lowland,” said BioImpact owner Amy Dempsey. “It is going to be a really nice mangrove habitat.”
Dempsey must deal with the three-and-a-half acres of dredged material being stored at the pond while it dries.
Planting Mangroves from Seeds
“The fill area has finally gotten good enough that I’ll walk on it,” she said. “You’re walking along in that area, and then suddenly you’re sinking. I have decided that I can do this by myself, because I walk very lightly.”
“The first place I started planting was on the far side, and I planted most of that area by throwing the seeds out because it’s really soft over there,” Dempsey added.
Through experimentation, Dempsey has decided that planting mangrove seeds, rather than transplanting mangrove plants, is a better method for the mitigation, she said.
“One of the things I’ve found, because I’ve done quite a bit of mangrove mitigation, is you can transplant mangroves but they get kind of shocked,” said Dempsey. “I found if you scatter seeds, within six months, the size of the mangroves are the same size as if you had transplanted them.”
Plants Producing Leaves
Many of the seeds Dempsey has planted so far are already sprouting.
“A lot of the little chutes are starting to put off leaves,” she said. “They just really take off. I was really excited, because in the last three weeks, everything has just been leaping out.”
Dempsey, who has been coming to St. John two to three times a week since the mitigation began, said she is saddened to see the amount of litter at the marine facility.
“While I’m planting, I also pick up garbage, which is incredibly disappointing,” she said. “There are so many beer bottles, cans and jars, and it’s from people waiting to go on the car ferry. They just toss it over the fence.”
Dempsey plans to visit Enighed once a month for the next five years, planting and maintaining the facility’s mangroves.
“Everything is doing really well there,” she said. “Over the next five years, we will continue to scatter the mangrove seeds. We will be picking up garbage and mangroves that wash out or fall over.”
“We will do monthly maintenance and continue planting,” Dempsey continued. “We will get a thriving mangrove habitat there.”
Although the construction of the Enighed Pond Marine Facility altered the ecology of the area, planting the mangroves will create a better habitat for birds, according to Depmsey.
“They dredged out a salt pond, which served multiple functions,” she said. “It’s going to be different in function than the pond, because the pond was a big catchment area with fish. The new area we are creating is going to be a great place for birds, but it really won’t have the fish habitat that the pond did.”
Residents Happy with Mangroves
Although mangroves were destroyed during the construction of the facility, the end result of the mitigation will be even greener surroundings, according to Dempsey.
“The bottom line is, we needed the terminal,” she said. “It is really great that the Port Authority is doing the mitigation. There will be a lot more mangroves — we are putting in a lot more than were taken out.”
Dempsey has been happy with the reactions of St. John residents, she said.
“A lot of people, like guys on the ferries and the Port Authority guards yell out to me, ‘be careful, don’t sink,’” said Dempsey. “I have had more people get so excited and start yelling out to me because the mangroves are starting to put out leaves. People get really excited about it.”
“It’s a nice project, and it’s going to be a nice mitigation,” Dempsey continued. “It makes me so excited to see how many local people are really happy to see the mangroves coming in.”