The V.I. Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) has announced that salvage operations for vessels displaced by recent hurricanes began on Thursday in the areas of Salt River Bay and Long Reef on St. Croix.
“DPNR prioritized these areas because the displaced vessels and hazardous materials aboard are impacting these environmentally sensitive areas,” said Commissioner Dawn L. Henry Esq.
Salt River Bay National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve is a unit of the National Park Service (NPS) and is jointly managed by DPNR and NPS. The park preserves upland watersheds, mangrove forests, coral reefs, estuarine and marine environments that support threatened and endangered species.
DPNR has taken the lead with the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in conjunction with the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, Army Corps of Engineers and NPS to begin a long process of removing hazardous materials and vessels from the U.S.V.I. ports, waterways and shorelines in the aftermath of recent hurricanes.
The U.S. Coast Guard and the EPA assessment teams have identified more than 400 displaced vessels among the islands of St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas.
The Coast Guard hired the National Response Corporation to remove fuel, oil and other hazardous materials from the vessels; Resolve Marine Group will oversee the salvage and movement of vessels to intermediate holding areas. Both companies have decades of experience.
Due to environmental sensitivity in Salt River Bay and Long Reef, these removals are conducted at no cost to the vessel owners. Some of the vessels salvaged will be moved to intermediate holding areas in Salt River Bay. These areas were chosen as locations with sand, gravel and mud bottom to temporarily moor vessels while DPNR and the Coast Guard work with owners to determine the final disposition of the vessels.
Due to safety concerns, DPNR strongly encourages all commercial and recreational operations within the bay to cease during these salvage operations. DPNR and the U.S. Coast Guard ask for the communities’ patience and understanding as they work hard to protect the environment and help restore the beauty of the islands.
Prior to removal of any displaced vessel within the boundaries of the Caribbean National Parks, vessel owners must contact NPS via email at email@example.com or the DPNR at USVIDPNR@gmail.com.
For questions or concerns, call the Coast Guard ESF-10 Public Information Officer at 423-6688.