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Residents Raise Issues About Spoils from Harbor-Dredging Project

Feb. 18. 2009 — The V.I. Port Authority and the West Indian Co. Ltd. are making way for the world's largest cruise ships to come to St. Thomas, but a few community members are voicing concerns about the environmental aspects of the $9 million dredging project.
"The first thing I would ask is that a much more thorough study be done of the content of what will be dredged out and more thought be given to the long-term impact that that material will have in the area it will be going into," said St. Thomas resident George Lord.
He and a dozen others attended a public forum Wednesday evening, where they had the opportunity to speak with committee officials overseeing the project.
Major concerns addressed were the toxicity of the spoil that would come from spot dredging at the entrance of the Charlotte Amalie Harbor and along the WICO dock, and the placement of those spoils into the Lindbergh Bay dredge hole.
According to the project's environmental consultant, Amy Dempsey of Bio-Impact, the soils and sands in the harbor recently tested below the Environmental Protection Agency's high-metallic standards and would be safe to fill the dredge hole.
All alternatives for dumping materials — from Puerto Rico to Jacksonville, Fla., to ocean dumping — have been exhausted and Lindbergh Bay is the best site, said Dempsey, and her opinion was shared by VIPA Director of Engineering Dale Gregory. The committee stood in agreement that the filling of Lindbergh would reduce nearby beach erosion and improve the area's water quality.
Others didn't seem convinced as they continued to question the quality of testing done on potentially toxic harbor spoils and the research done on how the ecosystem of Lindbergh will react.
Ultimately the purpose of the meeting was to inform the community about details of the project and address questions and concerns before the public hearing with V.I. Coastal Zone Management.
VICA and WICO filed a joint application with the Department of Planning and Natural Resources to facilitate the dredging. CZM will call for a public hearing sometime before April 4.
"We made it quite clear that everything is right here in the application," WICO President Edward Thomas said. "It's a big document. I find that people just don't want to take the time to actually read it. We are saying, 'The documents are there. Go and read it. Then come back and we can continue this dialogue so that when we do get to the CZM hearing, we can be prepared to answer all of their questions.'"
The application is available to the public upon request through CZM, Gregory said. Contact CZM at (340) 774-3320.
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