Fishermen will be able to transfer their commercial fishing licenses to whoever they choose, if a bill approved in committee Monday becomes law.
The hope is that by making the licenses transferrable, it would make it easier for a fishing operation to continue when the licensed operator retires, said Sen. Sammuel Sanes, the bill’s sponsor.
"The tradition is eroding and hopefully this will help maintain it," Sanes said while introducing the bill to the Committee on Planning and Environmental Protection.
V.I. Department of Planning and Natural Resources Commissioner Alicia Barnes testified that DPNR is in full support of the measure. She and Roy Pemberton, DPNR’s director of Fish and Wildlife, suggested family of the fishermen should be given first consideration, to help preserve the cultural and traditional aspect of the fishery.
The bill was approved, without amendment, and sent on for further consideration in the Rules and Judiciary Committee.
Voting yea were Sens. Carlton "Ital" Dowe, Ronald Russell, Nereida "Nellie" Rivera-O’Reilly and Louis Patrick Hill. Sens. Craig Barshinger, Neville James and Patrick Sprauve were absent. Sanes, the measure’s sponsor, is not a member of the committee.
A bill to authorize the V.I. Waste Management Authority to do a feasibility study comparing the costs and benefits of different ways of incorporating solar power generation into closure plans for St. Croix’s Anguilla and St. Thomas’ Anguilla landfill was sent on too.
As originally proposed by O’Reilly, the bill would have directed WMA to use a particular technology called an Exposed Geomembrane Solar Cover system. But after conferring with WMA officials, O’Reilly drafted and introduced an amendment in the nature of a substitute, authorizing a careful study instead. All votes were by the same margin.
Legislation to change newly-minted regulations on cell tower construction to soften setback requirements was held in committee. Under regulations finalized in February, towers must be set back from the property line by at least the height of the tower. The measure, sought and endorsed by cell tower construction firm Caribbean Tower Sites and cell service provider Choice Wireless Communication, would have softened the requirement by measuring from the far side of adjacent roads, rather than the near side, thus shortening the setback by the width of the road.
Barnes testified against the measure, saying it is "in direct contrast to the intent of the recently promulgated rules and regulations." Tower Sites and Choice officials testified that towers rarely fall, and when they do, they tend to collapse, not topple, arguing that this means the setback can be safely reduced.
The committee also took testimony from concerned St. Croix residents and Barnes about damage being done to Emancipation Drive, north of Frederiksted, by operations of Aggregate Inc., a gravel company owned by Ann Abramson.
The road is nearly impassable and large portions have not been paved since 1979, according to residents of the area. St. Croix naturalist Olasee Davis and others testified that a centuries-old stone bridge north of Frederiksted in Estate Prospect Hill is being scraped and gouged by passing trucks.
Barnes testified the quarry is in violation of an array of environmental regulations, permit requirements and zoning requirements. Neighboring Caledonia Gut is especially environmentally sensitive, and the quarry has contaminated and impacted the gut with dust, sediment and debris, she said.
The department has cited the company for violations and is now planning on enforcement actions and fines, she said.
Toward the end of the hearing, Abramson arrived. "I am not here to make any excuses," Abramson said. She said she had been ill, but that she recently took direct personal control over operations again and would correct problems within the quarry. As for the road, she suggested Public Works should pave the road.
No legislation regarding the quarry was before the committee.