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DPNR Meeting with Boaters to Address Johnson Bay

Aug. 26, 2004 – The Planning and Natural Resources Department has called a meeting on Tuesday with Coral Harbor boaters. It will be held at 6 p.m. in the Emmaus Moravian Church Fellowship Hall.
DPNR's enforcement director, Lucia Francis, said V.I. National Park and U.S. Coast Guard representatives have been invited to speak.
The thorny issue of Johnson Bay is also on the agenda, Francis said. She said the department expects to give boaters a deadline for moving their vessels out of the bay.
Johnson Bay boaters have locked horns with DPNR over the department's order that they relocate to other harbors. (See "Boat Owners Challenging Order to Leave Johnson Bay".)
The inner section of Coral Harbor is the obvious choice, but boaters claim that area is overcrowded already.
The Johnson Bay boaters have formed an organization, the Coral Bay Association for Marine Planning, to challenge the legality of the DPNR order. However, boater Morgan McDonald said he doesn't expect department officials to accept boaters' input now when they wouldn't as the issue unfolded.
McDonald, who is spearheading the association efforts, said Coral Harbor boaters have suggested informal meetings with DPNR officials to negotiate differences, but have been unsuccessful. "DPNR has refused to engage in any discussion with boaters," he said.
He said the organization has gone so far as to invite Francis and her boss, Planning and Natural Resources Commissioner Dean Plaskett, out for a daysail, but they haven't taken the boaters up on the offer.
On Aug. 14, DPNR officers slapped a "Notice of Inspection" form on most of the boats in Johnson Bay. "You are to relocate you vessel from this bay, not a mooring area," is handwritten on the form.
The boaters association maintains that the government never sought community input in determining mooring areas. Additionally, Johnson Bay is listed as a mooring area on a plan to designate Coral Harbor an Area of Particular Concern for environmental reasons. That plan was never finalized.
Several association members hold mooring permits for Johnson Bay that were issued by DPNR. Francis said at a March public meeting with boaters that the staff erred in issuing those permits.

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