Is the V.I. Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) in negotiation with the Summer’s End Group, LLC, aimed at “establishing a long-term controlled mooring plan in Coral Bay” as claimed by the application for the proposed St. John Marina, The Yacht Club at Summer’s End?
While the greater Coral Bay community is taking sides on the ambitious marina proposed for waters off the south shore of Coral Bay Harbor, the resident boating community is warily wondering what impact the marina plan will have on their neighborhood, their housing and/or their livelihoods.
Apparently, they have a reason for their paranoia.
“There is something to what they’re saying,” one DPNR official told St. John Tradewinds. A mooring management arrangement may be being negotiated between DPNR and the developers who have proposed the latest marina plan, the official said.
Marina, Mooring Management
St. John Marina application is for a 145-slip marina extending from the south shore of the harbor and the installation of 19 new moorings for its use, in addition to taking over management of all the moorings in the harbor – 115 boats anchored or moored, according to the marina application.
“The Summer’s End Group will establish a public-private partnership and work cooperatively with Government and local stakeholders to implement and operate a properly designed and managed mooring system throughout Coral Bay,” the group’s DPNR application reads.
“The applicant is entering into an agreement with DPNR and will take over the management of the mooring field in cooperation with DPNR,” the document continued. “The applicant will organize the mooring field and replace all the anchors and moorings with properly designed and installed moorings that will have negligible impact on the sea floor.”
The DPNR official, who is not involved the agency’s mooring management or marine enforcement, said he did not know any details of the negotiations on the mooring management and referred questions to the commissioner’s office. The DPNR spokesperson was not available for comment.
A representative of Summer’s End confirmed that the developer has made a proposal to DPNR for a partnership involving management of the moorings, although the nature and status of any negotiations between the developer and DPNR remained unclear.
“What is proposed is a partnership where each partner has specific responsibilities.” St. John Marina principal Rick Barksdale wrote St. John Tradewinds. “DPNR’s responsibilities will include among others enforcement and approval of mooring and mooring field sizes and locations.”
“Summer’s End Group responsibilities will include among others the orderly process of determining the size and number of boats wanting to secure a mooring in Coral Harbor,” Barksdale continued. “Additional responsibilities for the Summer’s End Group include the installation of new moorings and removal of old moorings at our expense.”
“Since the size and number of boats seeking moorings have yet to be determined, mooring size and mooring field locations found in our application are conceptual,” he added.
“Every effort will be made to accommodate boaters who look to be compliant and have a Coral Harbor mooring in a managed area which ultimately, along with other marina services, will help to improve the environmental health of Coral Harbor,” Barksdale wrote. “As proposed, mooring field management will be handled by the same professional management team responsible for the St. John Marina.”
Consensus on Moorings?
“During Marine Uses Planning meetings held in Coral Bay in 2013, there was a consensus that Coral Harbor needed management,” Barksdale continued. “Sharon Coldron, President of the Coral Bay Community Council drafted a letter to DPNR citing the need for harbor management in which she stated that DPNR was incompetent and incapable of managing the harbor, and she further stated that asking DPNR to manage Coral Harbor would be like asking the Virgin Islands Police Dept. to manage the school system.”
“Successful management of Coral Harbor will require a cooperative partnership working in collaboration with DPNR to improve the marine environment which is what is proposed in our permit application,” Barksdale concluded.
“Most Important Mitigation”
“The most important mitigation measure will (be) establishing a long-term controlled mooring plan in Coral Bay to eliminate illegally moored and anchored boats and substandard moorings that currently are having a significant impact on sea grasses and water quality,” according to the marina developers’ permit application to DPNR’s Coastal Zone Management commission for the St. John Marina.
The direct reference to Coral Bay’s notoriously unregulated live-aboard neighborhood — which today consists of 115 boats anchored or moored (including the floating bar), according to the group’s permit application — stirred up a hornet’s nest which was already buzzing.
The boardings of boats in the harbor by DPNR enforcement officers armed with automatic weapons in recent years brought public outcry and complaints about the unnecessarily strong-armed enforcement tactics.
In addition to questioning any private takeover of the mooring field management, Coral Bay boaters questioned specific aspects of the developers’ mooring plans, including the apparently limited size of boats the proposed moorings are designed for and the mooring style apparently being proposed to keep the moored boats in position in a tight field and limit the damage to the underwater habitat from ground tackle.