Although consultants said it’s been two years in the making, Coral Bay residents Monday got their first look at the V.I. Water and Power Authority’s plans to build a desalinization plant at Fortsberg, a storage tank in the Carolina valley and a distribution line that terminates near Calabash Boom affordable housing community.
This didn’t sit well with some of the more than two-dozen people who attended the Coral Bay Community Council meeting at Guy Benjamin School.
“It’s so upsetting we weren’t approached at the beginning,” one woman said.
The St. Thomas-based architect hired by WAPA, Theresa Roberts, said that her clients usually have some plans in place before going public. However, she said she’d discuss the community’s concerns when she meets with WAPA later in the week.
WAPA has applied for a Coastal Zone Management permit, Roberts said. She told those at the meeting that they would have a chance to voice further concerns at the public hearing.
The Coral Bay residents at the meeting expressed concerns about the environmental impact. Consultant Amy Dempsey of the St. Croix-based Bio-Impact said that modeling studies showed that the brine would head south before being picked up by seagoing currents so it wouldn’t impact the inner harbor. However, several residents disputed her assertion.
The proposed plant will sit on about an acre of land near the mouth of Coral Bay’s harbor. The land is currently owned by the family of former Sen. Almando “Rocky” Liburd. He was asked how much WAPA planned to pay for the property.
“It’s negotiable,” he said.
Liburd said at a May 6, 2009 meeting of the Legislature’s Committee of the Whole that WAPA planned to build a desalinization plant at Fortsberg. He was at the Legislature to request a rezoning so he could build a Laundromat close to the planned distribution line.
The plant will produce 50,000 gallons a day to start, but would eventually make 100,000 gallons of water a day.
Roberts said the plant building will be designed to look like an old warehouse. Vibration panels will help limit noise.
“We’re trying to limit the amount of openings,” she said, indicating that this would also help reduce noise.
A line will run from the plant to a storage tank located on a government-owned parcel of land in the Carolina valley that residents long wanted for recreational use. Roberts said the storage tank initially would be 54 feet in diameter and 10 feet high.
When the plant capacity increases, the tank will stand 34 feet high. A distribution line will also run part of the way along the line to the storage tank.
The intake line will run 150 feet out into the ocean with the outflow pipe running over 300 feet offshore, Roberts said.
A line will run across Coral Bay harbor to Calabash Boom, a situation that irked several residents who said that it was unfair that the affordable housing community would get the water while other residents would have to pay for trucking from the storage tank.
At issue for those residents was the fact that when Calabash Boom was built, the developer claimed that a well on the property would meet the needs of the residents. Several residents said that water is now being trucked in.
According to Roberts, it was cheaper to run the line across the bay instead of around it. However, residents noted that if it ran around the bay, those who lived along its route could hook up.
Roberts predicted that locating the plant in Coral Bay would reduce trucked water costs to residents by 40 percent. People in the Coral Bay area now pay to have water trucked from the WAPA desalinization plant in Cruz Bay when their cisterns run dry.
She said the plant would be paid for by an Interior Department grant funded through the Insular Affairs Office.