Yacht Haven and Harbor Dredging Permits Approved

Dredging around the WICO dock would require moving coral and a shipwreck to areas outside the harbor. (Screenshot from Port Authority meeting on Microsoft Teams)

The Coastal Zone Management Committee green-lighted plans Tuesday to further dredge Charlotte Amalie Harbor. The deepening would allow larger cruise ships to maneuver more easily around the West Indian Company dock and allow Yacht Haven Grande to add mega-yacht slips.

The harbor dredging will likely be coordinated between the Port Authority and Yacht Haven’s parent company, IGY Marinas, as both projects require the same equipment and expertise, said Amy Dempsey, president of the consulting firm Bioimpact, who presented information in both requests to CZM.

At issue were some 200 small coral clusters in the area to be dredged and a historic shipwreck nearby. Dempsey told CZM the coral would be carefully relocated to Flat Cay, south of Cyril E. King Airport. Archaeologists would move the shipwreck further outside the harbor, where it might be enjoyed by divers.

The Port Authority permit request was actually a modification from an earlier 2018 proposal. After several 2022 surveys, it was determined less sand would need to be removed — down to 216,173 cubic yards from the previously permitted 255,118 cubic yards.

Some 60,000 cubic yards of the sand is of a quality similar to that found on many Virgin Islands beaches — containing no harmful contaminants — and could be used to rehabilitate beaches that may have degraded, Dempsey said. Sand closer to shore, however, tested positive for elevated lead and arsenic levels. This debris would be barged to partially fill a pit near St. Croix’s Henry E. Rohlsen Airport. The hole had been dug to gather material for the island’s Melvin Evans Highway, she said.

Dredging could begin in summer 2025 and take 16 months, depending on approval from Army Corp of Engineers.

Yacht Haven also sought to amend its existing permit for maintenance dredging. The eastern area, nearest the WICO dock, would be dredged to a depth of 25 feet, removing more than 11,000 cubic yards of seafloor. A second inner area just west would be dredged to 16 feet, pulling up nearly 4,000 cubic yards of material. And a larger, western area slated for new piers would be dredged to 18 feet, removing nearly 18,000 cubic yards of sand.

Eric Simonton, IGY Marinas’s executive vice president of real estate and asset development, told CZM the Virgin Islands had a shortage of slips for boats between 40 and 70 feet, particularly catamarans. Simonton also wanted to make room for the next generation of mega-yachts, especially those over 80 meters.

Yacht Haven plans to build two 18-foot wide piers on the site’s western end. The outer pier would be 584 feet long, and the second inner pier would be 613 feet. The new piers would be almost identical in construction to the facility’s existing piers. They’d be equipped with 480-volt shoreside power, potable water hookups, communications, sewer pump-out services, diesel fuel extensions, and fuel spill mitigation.

The expansion would have a $5 million economic impact on the territory, Simonton said, adding 44 direct jobs and 14 indirect.

Away from the harbor, the committee also heard from the Virgin Islands Housing Department on plans to replace the Tutu Senior Community Center with a modern, state-of-the-art facility. If approved, the new Anna’s Retreat senior living center would comprise 60 one- and two-bedroom units between 1,100 and 1,500 square feet — all powered on a self-sustaining micro-grid unattached to the Water and Power Authority’s electric lines, officials said at the Tuesday afternoon meeting.