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Charlotte Amalie
Sunday, June 23, 2024
HomeNewsLocal newsVirgin Islanders Urged to Rethink Coastal Development

Virgin Islanders Urged to Rethink Coastal Development

Presenters Wednesday said St. Croix was the territory’s island most vulnerable to wave action. (Photo courtesy Green Technology Center Presentation)

Gregory Guannel, director of the Caribbean Green Technology Center of the University of the Virgin Islands, said Wednesday that human activity is putting the territory’s coastlines under a lot of pressure.

Lecturing at the UVI Medical Simulation Center Dining Hall on St. Croix, he said Virgin Islanders must “think differently” about building along the coasts. He showed photos of a house once 100 feet from the shore and now about to fall into the sea.

He also showed photographs documenting the changing shorelines that resulted from the building of the Hovensa refinery on St. Croix and the extension of the airport runway on St. Thomas.

Rónadh Cox, professor of geology and mineralogy at Williams College, pointed out that other factors, such as hydrology (guts), gravity, sea level rise and wave action, also impacted shorelines.

For the last 44 years, buoys in the ocean near the territory have been measuring wave activity. Cox said that though Irma and Maria had dramatic impacts on the territory, the highest waves occurred in the decade 1989 to 1999 — Hugo, Marilyn, Bertha, and Lenny.

Guannel said that beaches where there is no development recover quicker than beaches where there is development.

The erosion of the beach west of the empty refinery has been a concern for developers of the Randall “Doc” James Racetrack on St. Croix. Guannel showed a photo illustrating how much closer the sea was coming to the racetrack.

The presentations about the impacts of coastal processes on USVI coasts, titled “Understanding Our Coasts: Observations of Change & Impacts in the US Virgin Islands,” can be seen here.

In a press release announcing the event, Guannel said, “Until very recently, we knew little about the physical characteristics of the USVI beaches and coastal systems. It turns out it’s a fascinating environment that responds to natural forces and man interventions at various scales, especially on St. Croix.” He added that he hoped the presentations would “start a discussion on how to best manage our coasts.”

The Green Technology Center promotes the sustainable use of natural resources and an understanding of and adaptation to the impacts of climate change.

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