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Port Authority Renewal of Wildlife Hazard Management Services Will Help Prevent Aviation Hazards

VI Port Authority board members discuss matters during Tuesday’s board meeting. (Zoom screenshot)

Board members for the Virgin Islands Port Authority voted on renewing the Cooperative Service Agreement with the US Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, and Wildlife Services in effort to manage wildlife hazard.

On Tuesday, wildlife hazard management services for the territory’s airports were approved by the governing board for the Port Authority. Elements of the USDA-APHIS WS agreement include staff training, hazard mitigation and management, policy guidance, and reporting. The renewal agreement comes in the wake of the recent Cape Air bird strike that left two of five passengers injured earlier this month. Cape Air flight, KAP8861, en route to the Cyril E. King Airport from the British Virgin Islands, experienced a bird strike north of Water Island just before landing.

The USDA-APHIS WS partnership has been occurring since 2015 and the most recent agreement expired in April.

“Since then, services has continued to be provided on a month to month basis,” said Port Authority airport manager Jerome Sheridan, who recommended the agreement to the board.

The APHIS WS program uses an integrated Wildlife damage management approach sometimes referred to as IPM or Integrated Pest Management, in which a series of methods may be used or recommended to remove or reduce wildlife.

Board member Celestino White asked Sheridan about the radius that air strikes typically occur.

“You can have airstrikes occur en route to an airport. You can also have airstrikes that occur actually on the airport environment itself, on the runway,” said Sheridan.

“As far as frequency, on an annual basis, what type of bird strike do we have occurring here in the territory,” asked White.

“Actually, for us here, because we’ve been very diligent with our occupational harassment with the USDA, we don’t have that issue now. Previously, bird strikes were up in the territory. But they don’t exist now,” replied Sheridan.

White then asked if the landfill on St. Croix could pose a risk with its proximity to the Rohlsen airport since there was concern from the FAA in the past. Sheridan replied no and executive director Carlton Dowe added that the past issues with wildlife and the FAA occurred before the institution of the wildlife development plan.

The new agreement is anticipated to end in 2025. Operating costs will total $350,934 and will be split evenly between both the territory’s airports. With renewal of the contract, Wildlife Services plans to assist the Port Authority with alleviating wildlife damage to properties, protecting human health and safety on airports, and maintaining records and databases to comply with FAA rules.

Board members Derek Gabriel, Willard John, Kevin Rodriguez, Leona Smith, and White voted to renew the cooperative service agreement.

In addition, the Port Authority approved several outstanding lease agreements for the P3 airport project and continues to work on 23 projects territory-wide (eight for the St. Thomas-St. John district and 15 for St. Croix). Operational expenses for the St. Thomas-St. John district total $66,117,748.71 and $47,629,100.42 for the St. Croix district.

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