St. John CZM Committee tabled WAPA’s request the first time around while it waited for the utility to remove three unused poles in Frank Bay, above.
St. John will be connected to St. Thomas by a second cable soon.
In a short decision meeting on Tuesday evening, May 24, at St. Ursula’s Senior Citizens Center, the St. John Coastal Zone Management Committee voted unanimously to grant the V.I. Water And Power Authority a modification request to install a new electrical cable from Red Hook to Frank Bay.
St. John CZM Committee members Gerry Hills, Andrew Penn and Madaline Sewer voted in favor of the modification request. Committee member Edmund Roberts was absent.
The committee tabled the request at its April 28 decision meeting at the Westin Resort and Villas because the group could not get a clear answer about three seemingly unused utility poles and a rusty chain link fence in the Frank Bay area.
The poles have since been removed and a new fence will installed in the area soon, according to WAPA officials.
At the April CZM meeting, Amy Dempsey of BioImpacts showed the committee pictures of the existing pipeline and images of the new cable’s proposed location. The new cable would “provide redundancy so that if the other cables are lost or damaged, there will be full electrical power for the island of St. John,” according to the request.
WAPA Engineer Cordelle Jacobs, however, was unable to answer questions from the committee regarding the utility poles in Frank Bay, prompting the committee to table the request.
Under questioning from committee members Penn and Hills, Jacobs admitted not knowing details of WAPA’s St. John substation.
“My boss couldn’t make it here today,” Jacobs said at the April meeting.
This time around, the WAPA engineer was able to answer to tell committee members that the poles had been cut down and a new fence will be installed around the high-voltage junction box in Frank Bay.
“The poles were removed, the grass was cut and we will be replacing the fence with a new fence within the next few weeks,” said Jacobs. “Since there is a junction box there we must have it fenced it. We can’t have the area just be open.”
WAPA will also be removing three unused water pipes from the Frank Bay area, Jacobs added.
The seawater intake pipes are a two-inch PVC line, a 10-inch flexible line and a 10-inch rigid line. All three will be removed and the beach will be “raked back to its original condition,” according to information from Department of Planning and Natural Resources’ Coastal Zone Management Program.
Once the clean-up work is completed, WAPA will start installing the new electrical cable from Red Hook, St. Thomas to Frank Bay, St. John.
The project will start in the Red Hook area where WAPA will expand the existing beach manhole before laying the line with a cable installation barge.
With divers and video equipment, WAPA will lay the cable across Pillsbury Sound, pass Steven’s Cay at a depth of 60 feet, avoid coral around Ming Rock and come shore in Frank Bay.
“Divers will maneuver the cable around any sensitive areas as necessary during the monitoring dive,” according to information from DPNR. “The cable will first be videoed where it landed and then videoed once it has been relocated. The entire laying procedure will be monitored and the lay videoed.”
Giving WAPA the green light to install the electrical cable, Hills praised the utility for being “extremely responsive and quick” in addressing the Frank Bay pole issue.
Along with its approval, the St. John CZM Committee required WAPA to meet 13 special conditions. Most of the conditions pertain to the protection of sea turtles, calling for the use of siltation barriers which do not entangle the protected species and requiring all vessels working on the project to operate at “no wake” speeds.
“Operation of any mechanical construction equipment shall cease immediately if a sea turtle is seen within a 50-foot radius of the equipment,” according to one of the special conditions. “Activities may not resume until the protected species has departed the project area of its own volition.”
Once installed, the new cable is designed to provide St. John will a redundant line in case the other two lines from St. Thomas — one from Great Bay placed in 2003 and a second from Red Hook which was placed in 1995 — are lost or damaged, according to information from DPNR.
WAPA is expected to start the project in June, according to Jacobs.