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Johnson Bay Boaters: Out of Luck?

Sept. 20, 2004 – Wait until the Comprehensive Land and Water Use Plan is adopted before making us leave our moorings in Johnson Bay. That's what St. John boater Adin Kauffman suggested at a Planning and Natural Resources Department meeting held Monday at Emmaus Moravian Church hall.
"I don’t understand why the government is so hellbent on getting people out. I don't have any place to go," Kauffman said.
He said he's kept his boat in Johnson Bay for 20 years and bought property near by because it was close to his boat.
Lucia Francis, Planning's enforcement chief, responded, "We're all entitled to our opinion."
She later told the Source she doesn't want to wait for action on the Comprehensive Land and Water Use Plan before moving the Johnson Bay boaters because she fears the plan won't pass.
This is Planning's second attempt to forge a Land and Water Use Plan. The first one, developed in 1994-1995, never made it through the Legislative process. It has been on its list of mandates since 1970. (See "Long Road Ahead for Land, Water Use Plan").
Francis told Coral Bay area boaters at a meeting in March that those in Johnson Bay would have to relocate because the bay is not listed as a mooring area under the territory's Mooring and Anchoring Law approved in 1992.
She said Monday that letters will go out shortly advising the boat owners they have to move.
"They'll have a reasonable period to come in to compliance," she said.
She said her officers will work with the boaters individually to help them find a solution. She said the individual approach is necessary because each boat has a different issue in addition to being moored illegally in Johnson Bay. Some do not hold mooring permits. Others don't have registration decals.
Boaters at the meeting claimed Planning issued mooring permits for Johnson Bay, but Francis said research showed they were actually for Coral Harbor. She said some of the boaters in Johnson Bay hold permits for Great Cruz Bay.
Michael Ebner said Planning officers took a Global Positioning System reading aboard his boat when he applied for a mooring as required by Planning's application process. He said his boat was in Johnson Bay and he got his permit.
About a half-dozen people 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 rest of the boats belong to people who live in the Coral Bay area and use them for weekend trips.
Some, like Kauffman, have been there for decades. Several people at the meeting said they wondered why the government wants them out now when previous administrations thought differently.
Assistant Attorney General Michael Law said Planning Commissioner Dean C. Plaskett has interpreted the law to mean that no moorings will be allowed in Johnson Bay.
However, he said the government is looking at instituting a grandfathering clause, but since it's not called for in the 1992 Mooring and Anchoring Law, it's unlikely to gain approval.
Several boaters said they can't move to Coral Harbor because there is no room.
This prompted Lorelei Monsanto to note that everyone has to work together on the issue.
"If you have to leave, honey, you have to leave. There are too many boats in the harbor," said Monsanto, a Coral Bay resident who recently ran an unsuccessful primary election campaign to be the Democratic candidate for the at-large senatorial seat.
The boaters ignored her remarks.
Francis said she picked 15 people out of those who volunteered at the March meeting to serve on an ad hoc Coral Harbor boater's committee. She said she would release the names after Plaskett approves them. Francis said they represent a cross section of the community including those without boats. One of their tasks will be to come up with a mooring plan for Coral Harbor.
She said the committee could recommend that mooring be allowed in Johnson Bay.
The meeting also addressed the issue of Marine Sanitation Devices.
Steve Clark, chief ranger at V.I. National Park and V.I. Coral Reef National Monument, said boaters were not allowed to discharge their holding tanks even if the sewage is treated in park waters.
"You can't even dump your 'graywater,'" he said.
Lt. Chris Gagnon, who serves as supervisor of U.S. Coast Guard operations in St. Thomas, said that boaters can dump treated sewage in local waters, but Francis said they had to get a discharge permit to do so.
Boaters must go three miles out to sea in order to dump untreated sewage or use pump-out stations. However, the closest pump-out station is at Red Hook on St. Thomas, which takes several hours to reach.
Clark said the park would look into installing a floating pump-out station to serve boaters in the Coral Bay area.

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