The proposed Coral Bay marina is getting more attention this week as a well-respected environmental awareness group posted about the controversial project on its website Monday.
Mission Blue is a nonprofit organization comprised of more than 50 ocean conservation groups and likeminded organizations. The organization works to ignite public support for a “global network of marine protected areas.” Mission Blue posted the following information on its website Monday:
Coral Bay in St. John is Threatened by a Mega Marina
We’ve received lots of inquiries from residents and lovers of St. John and the U.S. Virgin Islands in the past weeks regarding a mega marina called Summer’s End that is pending approval for construction in Coral Bay. There is great concern for the environmental impact of the project on the local reefs and species (such as the endangered Green Sea Turtle), as well as belief that the regulatory bodies and government officials whose job it is to safeguard these habitats have vested interests in seeing the construction go through. We encourage our community to form their own opinions regarding this mega development in the pristine waters of St. John. To help inform the debate, provided below are direct unattributed testaments from concerned St. John residents.
Mission Blue believes in the protection of pristine, vibrant marine ecosystems to preserve the value that the ocean offers all life on earth instead of using their resources for short-term economic gain. If you want to help in the fight to prevent this development from taking root, consider supporting the Coral Bay Community Council. You can make donations, offer your time or contact them with questions here.
In the fight to reverse ocean decline, every voice counts. Don’t be shy to add your own.
The community’s panic stems from the fact that the principals in the mega yacht marina have been trying for many years to get it permitted, each time ever larger. They are confident this time primarily because the three standing members of the CZM (Coastal Zone Management) board are all childhood friends with the acting chairman of the Virgin Islands Port Authority, Bob O’Connor, a key principal. (It was Bob O’Connor and one of the CZM members who secured leases on the property — not all three CZM members. The member who has an interest recused himself leaving only two members to decide the outcome. The recused member sat in on the meeting so there would be a quorum.) They have secured 50-year leases on all the bordering properties.
Secondly, one of the CZM members is an investor in the project. The board only has these members instead of the usual five. The Governor has refused to appoint any others that have volunteered. He also supports this marina.
Everyone here knows there will be no economic gains – the excuse they all are using; in fact a genuine case can be made for significant economic damage. Lost in all of this, to our outrage, is the bay/harbor will forever be destroyed. Furthermore no matter what evidence is submitted, the CZM members do not have to read it or give it any credence.
Brief synopsis of where we are in the process:
1. Applicants have filed with the Coastal Zone Management board; public hearing was conducted on Aug 20; public comment period is now closed … CZM decision meeting will be sometime around end September (should be within 30 days of Aug 20 but time period may be extended a bit until the two eligible CZM commissioners are back on St John).
2. Application could be approved, approved with conditions, or denied by CZM. In any of those cases it could be appealed within 45 days to another VI board, and then following that appeal to a judicial appeal. 3. The Governor will need to approve the use of the submerged Trust Lands, and the Legislature will need to ratify the Governor’s approval. All of this (if it gets that far) will probably happen after the new territorial government is elected and seated in January.
4. In parallel, an application has been filed with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. I don’t believe they are actively processing it yet, and it has many hurdles to overcome before they can even deem it complete. NOAA and NFWS have both expressed strong reservations.
5. The location is quite possibly the worst place to locate a marina in Coral Bay Harbor – on the windward side, exposed to the southeast to open ocean, atop lush sea grass beds, prime marine turtle forage habitat, several federally listed endangered coral species within the project area … and in this totally unsuited location the developers want to extend a pier almost 1000 feet into the harbor, drive 1333 pilings into unknown substrate, provide slips for mega yachts up to 210 feet in length, construct 145 slips for 10,000 feet of boats. Dolphins are regularly seen in and about Coral Bay, migratory whales pass just outside the harbor, and in the adjacent water of Hurricane Hole is found one of the most healthy and prolific coral nurseries in all of the Virgin Islands – a real treasure. Hurricane Hole is protected by the National Park, but threatened by the pollution, sediments and disruption of the aquatic environment that this marina poses.
6. The sonic impact of pile driving, while intensely annoying to humans, can be life threatening to marine turtles, dolphins, and other species. It will undoubtedly severely impact our local economy, which is almost entirely based on the appeal of Coral Bay as a quiet, laid-back, ecotourism destination.
7. Coral Bay harbor, although impacted by sediments from upland construction, still has excellent water quality. It has been declared “Essential Fish Habitat,” with the marine meadows and fringing mangroves providing nursery habitat for lemon sharks and blacktip sharks. U.S. Fish and Wildlife has specifically recommended that the CZM permit not be issued for the current application. The construction and operation of this proposed mega yacht marina would irreparably damage Coral Bay, very likely cause impacts to the adjacent National Park waters, and have unknown but potentially significant impacts to the Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument.
All in all, an ill-conceived project promoted by off-island investors whose objective is to exploit a small corner of paradise for their own selfish interests.
This is clearly a hot topic both on and off island. It’ll be interesting to see how all of this pans out…