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Charlotte Amalie
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Water Island Dock Construction Finally Set to Begin

Dec. 8, 2006 — It's been eight years in the making, but it looks like a concrete-and-steel dock for the federal highway between Water island and St. Thomas is about to become a reality.
Officially designated as U.S. Federal Highway Maritime Route 306M, the route was recently relocated to Krum Bay across from the V.I. Water and Power Authority, where a floating dinghy dock will be installed for the Water Island traffic. The Water Island ferry will still dock at Crown Bay.
Gov. Charles W. Turnbull approved a $1.38 million contract with O'Brien Construction this week, and it now sits on the desk of Public Works Commissioner George Phillips, ready to go.
Past and current presidents of the Water Island Civic Association (WICA) couldn't be happier. Joanne Bohr, current WICA president, expressed hope tempered with a little reality Friday.
"All Water Islanders are anxious to get a safe dock in place," she said. "It's no different than having a road for us. Our ferry dock is inherently our road to work or shopping. Although I understand it's a definite thing this time, I'm only hoping there is no additional delay in starting or finishing the project."
She added, "In our meetings, it's always listed as 'perpetual business.'"
"It's a great day when we actually see this project come to fruition," added Colette Monroe, a past and longtime president of WICA.
Wynstan Benjamin, DPW project engineer for federal highway projects, expressed no doubt about the project's success. He expects the project to get underway right after the start of the year. "Six months is a realistic date for its completion," he said. "We're right at the end, where you could actually start seeing some activity."
Benjamin has stewarded the project through no end of bureaucratic wrangling, permitting processes, bid processes and a maze of government agencies over the past several years.
The project has been out to bid twice in just the last year, Benjamin said: "The first time around bidding the project, the bids, in essence, were all too high. Then, after all the bids went out a second time, you have to go back and re-evaluate the design and make modifications. Whenever you modify a project, you have to get modification on the permits. It's come kind of full circle, completed two times."
The work is "just entering is another phase; that's the way we look at it," Benjamin said. Asked if he was relieved to have gotten this far, he said, "The relief will come when we are finished, six months away."
Both Bohr and Monroe offered words of praise for Benjamin — if not for the time it has taken to get work actually started.
"Mr. Benjamin has always made the time to keep the civic association informed of the dock's status, even the bad news," Bohr said.
Monroe, who has lived with the project for years, said Benjamin "never lost hope, and fought to see this project go forward." Monroe gave a brief history of the project's travails.
The dock blew down in Hurricane Georges in 1998. At that time, Monroe was WICA president. "FEMA, public works and federal highway representatives met with us," she said. "FEMA was able to offer only $45,000 in temporary repairs, and suggested the dock be built under the jurisdiction for all federal highway routes. By late 1999, FHW had approved about $1 million to rebuild a proper concrete dock."
Monroe continued, "Meantime, Water Island was being transferred from the federal to the local government. (Sen.) Louis Hill, who was St. Thomas-Water Island administrator then, knew that without a dock Water Island could not be properly developed."
The new dock will offer a welcome change from the current temporary structure, the WICA women said.
"Minimal funds were identified for a temporary, floating dock, which is what we're still using," Monroe said. The past few years have seen U.S. Army Corp. of Engineers permits, underwater studies, Federal Highway Administration approvals and Coastal Zone management permits.
Several government agencies have been involved with the process, Benjamin said. The FHA, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers and the V.I. Department of Planning and Natural Resources have all had to sign off on plans as they were revised.
The floating dock has been responsible for several injuries over the years. In fact, Bohr said, she recently slipped on the dock's slick surface and cut her ankle. "There have been several accidents," she said, "especially with elderly people."
"I wonder what the cost would have been if it was done in 1998, or if the multitude of permits didn't expire and have to be reissued," Bohr said. "In any case, overdue as this may be, it is expected to be a well-built dock, and may survive many storms in the future."
Last week the St. Thomas CZM committee, which had issued a major permit that had lapsed, granted DPW a 12-month permit extension.
A pre-construction conference between DPW and the contractor is scheduled for Dec. 19, and a notice to proceed is effective Jan. 8.
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