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Charlotte Amalie
Monday, December 5, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesOptimism and Doubt for Crown Bay Dredging

Optimism and Doubt for Crown Bay Dredging

The V.I. Port Authority Board of Directors approved a contract with Maguire Inc. to compile a plan and acquire permits to dredge a large section of Crown Bay. The move is a sign that this long-awaited project is making progress, but not all of the board members were convinced enough was being done to push it along.

The project comes at the request of cruise ship operators who wish to bring more ships to St. Thomas. They have requested a “turning basin” be dredged out of the bay and for the East Gregerie Channel to be deepened to accommodate Freedom class ships.

The cruise operators have given the authority a deadline of October 2014 to complete the project. If VIPA misses the deadline, the territory stands to lose approximately 27 cruise ship visits that year.

Maguire presented the board with a tentative schedule for completing the project, estimating it would take a year to acquire all the necessary permits from the Planning and Natural Resources Department and the Army Corp of Engineers, leaving about six months to do the dredging before the deadline.

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Before the permitting process can begin, however, the board must complete its application with DPNR.

For that application, Maguire is conducting a “dredge report” to examine the quantity of material to be dredged, marine life in the area and estimated costs. Perhaps most importantly, it will also suggest locations to relocate the dredged material, a key question for permitting agencies.

Maguire’s contract calls for that report to be submitted by Jan. 15, with a final recommendation on the dumping site to come a few weeks later.

Board member Gordon Finch said that was too long to wait.

“The board needs to know whether or not this schedule is realistic,” he said.

Finch pointed out that even after the report is filed, VIPA must go through a public hearing process before submitting their application. That means that the one-year permitting process estimated by Maguire would not even begin until March or April of next year.

Finch has long been outspoken in his belief that VIPA has not moved fast enough on this project. Since the summer, he has taken time out of every board meeting to caution his colleagues that they risked blowing the deadline unless they acted quickly.

Previously he has estimated the dredging would take one year to 15 months to complete, meaning work would need to begin in the summer of 2013 in order to meet the deadline.

Finch said that he based those estimates on his belief that the amount of material needing to be removed from the bay would not exceed 100,000 cubic yards. Studies have since shown that the project will entail moving approximately 250,000 cubic yards.

“Never in my wildest imagination did I think we would be talking two and a half times the quantity,” he said.

While stopping short of saying he did not believe it could be done, Finch expressed extreme doubt in Maguire’s plan.

“The entire schedule is going to be predicated on dredging 250,000 cubic yards of material in a six-month period,” he said. “That is herculean.”

Board Chairman Robert O’Conner offered a word of support to the plan, pointing out that they would have more control over the construction phase of the project than the permitting phase and could take steps to speed it along.

“Whatever it takes,” O’Conner said, “whether it’s double time or working with more than one contractor.”

Darryl Smalls, board member and commissioner of the Department of Public Works, was also optimistic. Smalls said he believed Maguire’s permit estimate to be very conservative, and that they may well have more than just six months to complete the dredging.

Smalls said that the Army Corps of Engineers was familiar with the challenges facing the Virgin Islands and may expedite its permit. He also said that other agencies of the V.I. government stood ready to aid the project.

“It’s a territorial issue, not just a VIPA issue,” Smalls said. “Everybody, thus far, is willing to have an open ear. They’re listening and trying to cooperate and facilitate the process.”

Voting for the contract were board members O’Connor, Finch, Albert Bryan, Manuel Gutierrez, Beverly Nicholson-Doty, Allison Petrus and Yvonne Thraen. Smalls and Vincent Frazier were absent at the time of the vote.

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