Harley criticizes Government again

Island administrator Julien Harley is blaming the island government for the failure of the St. John Coastal Zone Management Committee to approve a $200,000 plan to upgrade the VI. Environmental Resource Station

The proposal was to have been reviewed at a CZM meeting this week, but because one of the three members was not present, there was no quorum.  So, there could be no approval.  Rather than criticizing the missing board member, attorney Brion Morrisette, who was off island, Harley found fault with Government House, according to the St. John Source

There are two vacant positions on the CZM panel.  "Names have been given … 2 1/2 years ago," added Madeline Sewer, another member of the Board.  "That’s long enough to be waiting." 

Improvements planned to the VIERS facility at Lameshur Bay include adding a classroom, upgrading the septic system, and planning construction of a conference center.

The Great Fish Count

ReefThe Friends of the Virgin Islands National Park will help finance an effort to catalog and count fish in the waters off the island.  Funds collected during this weekend’s Beach-to-Beach Power Swim will help purchase kits and supplies for the count, including plastic slates, underwater paper, and pencils, according to a report by the Virgin Islands Daily News

The count, to be conducted in July, is part of the Reef Environmental Foundation’s Great Annual Fish Count.  Volunteer snorkel and divers collect and report information on the fish populations in their areas.  More information is available at http://reef.org/data/surveyproject.htm.

Gasoline supplier threatens cutoff

Gasprices The consumer affairs commissioner has accused Hovensa, the St. Croix-based oil refining company, of saying it would stop selling gasoline in the islands if he persisted trying to put a lid on skyrocketing gas prices. 

Andrew Rutnik told a Senate committee hearing he hopes a district court judge would agree that his department has the authority regulate the gasoline companies, Esso Virgin Islands and Texaco Caribbean.  Rutnik, however, blamed the wholesalers, Esso and Texaco, for the high prices.

"If we can win, prices will lower again," he said, adding that Hovensa officials threatened to stop retailing in the VIs, the St. John Source reported.  At the extreme, that could mean no gasoline at service stations.

Water prices spike on shortage

One villa manager reports paying almost twice as much as usual, $500 a truckload, for water for his rental properties, in the face of what’s resulted from a two-month deficit of rain.  The water was barged over from St. Thomas because none was available on St. John.

On top of that, a reverse osmosis plant on St. John, which produces potable water, was offline for almost two weeks this month.  It’s now back operating, according to the St. John Source

Henry Boyd, a water hauler, said the Water and Power Authority doesn’t have enough money to connect a supply pipe from St. Thomas.  He blames the local government for strangling the utility by not paying its own power and water bills.

Dennis Demar, of Vacation Homes, doesn’t blame tourists for all the water shortages at properties he manages.  He also cites landscapers and drip irrigation systems.  He said there is no way to turn them off, even if rain is falling, and there is no way to know if they’re not working right unless they are spitting gushers of water into the air.

Rains pour little relief

The nearly month-long island-wide water shortage has been helped in the past week by some pretty wild weather.  Heavy rains and flash flood warnings were expected this weekend, but don’t seem to have shown up as forecast. During the month, 2 inches of rain has fallen, slightly more than usual for April.  A weather predictor in Puerto Rico, quoted by the Virgin Islands Daily News, warned Friday that 2 inches more could fall this weekend, but statistics from Weather Underground indicated late Sunday no such deluge.  Islanders were mighty disappointed when the hoped-for rain (sorry tourists!) didn’t arrive – leaving cisterns still emmmm-teee!

Raku in the Caribbean

Branfman2Steven Branfman, founder and director of the Potter’s Shop and School in Needham, Mass. will be on island May 2-8 at Maho Bay.  He will be teaching the making of Raku, a clay art form grown out of Japanese tea ceremony preparations. Potters take red hot pots and plunge them into newspapers and other materials to produce glaze effects. This workshop within a workshop offers a week-long "hands on" session, as well as a weekend only session from May 7-8. More information’s available at mahobayclayworks.com.