A proposed sediment detention basin in Coral Bay sailed through a St. John Coastal Zone Management public hearing on Wednesday evening, February 9.
While no one from the public attended the hearing, which convened at the Juilus E. Sprauve School, St. John CZM Committee members gave the proposal their full support and complimented the project.
The proposed basin is one of 18 projects being overseen by the Coral Bay Community Council as part of the V.I Resources, Conservation and Development Council’s $1.5 million grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
In obtaining the grant, from American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds, VIRCD partnered with the Estate Fish Bay Homeowners’ Association and CBCC to oversee projects aimed to stem the tide of stormwater runoff on St. John. VIRCD is overseeing its own projects on St. Croix.
The Fish Bay projects were mostly shovel ready and the homeowners’ association has all but wrapped up road work in the area, installing swales and paving sections of the roadway.
In Coral Bay, CBCC has broken ground on about half of its projects and are set to launch several more in the coming days. Under the grant, all of the projects must be completed by June. The proposed sediment basin is the lone project requiring a Major CZM Permit, according to CBCC president Sharon Coldren.
Coldren and CBCC’s stormwater engineer Chris Laude presented their plans to St. John CZM Committee members Gerry Hills, Andrew Penn and Edmund Roberts at the February 9 public hearing. Committee member Madeline Sewer was absent from the hearing.
The basin will be located on parcel no. 6-4 in Estate Carolina just off Centerline Road on a five-acre parcel of land owned by the government. A natural gut flows over the land and CBCC officials are proposing to remove the build up of sand and rubble to allow the gut to flow again.
The basin itself will cover a .42-acre area and will consist of a rock and rubble weir designed to slow down the flow of water in order to remove rocks and sediment. The basin is not designed to stop the flow of water, explained Laude.
“We struggled with what to call this project, because it doesn’t really fit into the traditional definition of a basin,” said the stormwater engineer. “There is a natural gut right now through the area but it is full of sand, large rocks and boulders. When water builds up it will sooner or later cut across the land and make a new gut.”
“We thought ‘Why not just move the sand out, keep the water in the gut,’” said Laude. “Then we’ll install the rock and rubble weir to capture debris and sediment before it flows down the hill. The area will look pretty much like it does now except without the gut sand.”
Since the land is government-owned it presents the perfect area to install a relatively simple stormwater retention device and will hopefully inspire similar projects, Laude added.
“This location is attractive because it’s government owned,” he said. “It is much more productive than trying to work with land owners and get them to install a stormwater basin. If this works well, and it should work well, there is no reason it can’t be duplicated in other areas.”
Excavation, which should last one or two weeks, would likely be accomplished with a track hoe and work would only be done on weekdays between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Laude explained.
“We are not building a pond or a pool, we’re just taking out the accumulated rock and sand,” he said. “And when that’s done, we’ll install the rock and rubble weir.”
CBCC is in talks with Department of Public Works officials to maintain the gut, which will need to be cleared of accumulated sand and rock over time, explained Coldren.
“Without maintenance this will last only one season,” said Laude. “That is a major feature of it; to keep it maintained.”
St. John CZM Committee members applauded the project and hoped the group could eventually fix guts across the island.
“I commend the group on the projects you are doing,” said Penn. “It will be done properly and I applaud your efforts. Hopefully you can move from Coral Bay to other areas.”
“Anything that will improve the conditions of the bay, I appreciate,” said Roberts.
“I thank you for the community-minded spirit of this and I want to see it work,” said Hills.
St. John CZM Committee members will host a decision meeting within 30 days to issue their decision on the proposal.
For more information call the Department of Planning and Natural Resources CZM program at 774-3320.