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Boat Owners Challenging Order to Leave Johnson Bay

Aug. 20, 2004 – The Coral Bay Association for Marine Planning, known as CAMP, is questioning the legality of a Planning and Natural Resources Department order that boats move out of Johnson Bay, a small indentation on the south side of Coral Harbor.
Johnson Bay boater Morgan McDonald said that on Aug. 14 DPNR officers slapped "Notice of Inspection" forms on all but two of the boats in the bay. "You are to relocate you vessel from this bay, not a mooring area," is handwritten on the form.
McDonald, a naval architect, said that two boats in the bay didn't get stickered – native-owned fishing boats that, like the other vessels, hold mooring permits.
DPNR made its intentions known at a meeting the department called in March at Emmaus Moravian Church Hall in Coral Bay. Lucia Francis, DPNR Enforcement Division director, said then that the boaters would have to move by the start of hurricane season in June. When several boaters said they had mooring permits issued by her department, Francis said staff personnel had made a mistake in issuing them.
Francis said on Thursday that the department will set a final date for boats to leave Johnson Bay after it holds a meeting with the boaters later in August. She said she is currently working on setting a date for the meeting. "We will research their claims," she promised.
Michael Ebner is a carpenter who lives aboard his boat in Johnson Bay and a CAMP member. He said DPNR personnel inspected his mooring site prior to issuing a permit. Apparently they found no problems, because he received the permit.
About a half dozen people, including Ebner and his wife, Angela, live aboard their boats in Johnson Bay. A total of 44 boats were moored there before hurricane season arrived, but some have moved to safer areas for the duration. The other boats belong to people who live in the Coral Bay area and typically use them for weekend jaunts to offshore cays.
McDonald, who lives with his family aboard their boat in the bay, said that "you have to be fairly well to do to have a toy that you can use once or twice a month."
Coral Harbor, often called Coral Bay, would seem to be the obvious place to relocate for the Johnson Bay boaters, but it is already overcrowded. McDonald said a survey he conducted on July 18 found 122 boats in Coral Harbor. Somewhere between a dozen and 20 of them are home to liveaboard families whose members work at a variety of jobs ashore. The rest, like those in Johnson Bay, are vessels that get used on weekends by area residents.
According to CAMP members, the territory's Mooring and Anchoring Law calls for community input in setting up mooring and anchoring areas. "This wasn't done," Ebner said.
McDonald is calling for public hearings on the matter.
Johnson Bay and nearby Sander's Bay are listed on a Sept. 21, 1993, plan that designated Coral Bay an Area of Particular Concern, an environmental red flag. Coral Harbor is listed as having a marina. There is no marina, only a derelict dock. The APC designation has never made it through the appropriate channels, and its fate remains in the air.
Both Ebner and McDonald said CAMP wants to work with DPNR, because to go to court would cost them and the territory's taxpayers money as well as time.
How this situation plays out will become crucial in the near future as Coral Bay's explosive growth in recent years continues. The Moravian Church has floated a plan to build a marina, a hotel and condominiums that would have a huge impact on the area.
"There could be a real marine industry if the government administered it fairly," McDonald said. But he sees driving boaters out of Johnson Bay as discouraging marine-related businesses from developing in Coral Bay.
The only such business in Coral Bay now is a very small marine supply store.
Opinions vary among Coral Bay residents about the Johnson Bay boaters.
Mimi Servant, who owns a waterfront rental house at Johnson Bay but lives at Bordeaux, said she has seen the bay's water quality deteriorate in the last five years. "I've seen a lot of fish disappearing there," she said.
And she said it appears the boaters have taken over Johnson Bay.
Andy Gordon, whose house overlooks Johnson Bay, said he sees no problems with having boats moored in that area. "It seems like it's the home for people," he said.

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