Federal Agencies Offer Input on Proposed Coral Bay Marina

Coral Bay August 2014

So as you know, the proposed Coral Bay marina has been a pretty hot topic both on and off island lately. Well today we wanted to share some information with you that leads us to believe that this marina is facing an uphill battle due to environmental concerns. Just to recap, the Coastal Zone Management committee has 30 days following last Wednesday’s meeting to either approve or deny the permit. Here’s the latest…

Jean-Pierre Oriel, Director of CZM, contacted both the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association and the US Department of Interior Fish and Wildlife Service and asked for their comments on the Summer’s End Marina proposal. Here’s a few items taken directly from their responses:

From the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association…

“… as we expressed after reviewing the previous version of the marina, which consisted only of a marina for smaller vessels … we continue to have concerns regarding the potential project impacts to seagrass beds and water quality in the bay. In response to the past permit application for a smaller marina, we had recommended that the applicant explore avoidance and minimization of project impacts to seagrass, including through alternatives such as the construction of a marina at an alternate location. Instead, when Summer’s End acquired the property, they proposed a larger project that includes the currently proposed marina for small vessels and vessels up to 120 feet in the South Club and up to 80 feet in the North Club based on notes in our project file.”

“ … the project has gotten larger rather than smaller, resulting in greater impacts to benthic habitat that is used by sea turtles as well as creating the potential for greater water quality impacts in the bay, which contains habitat for ESA-listed and proposed corals in addition to sea turtles. For this reason, we continue to have concerns regarding this project. As part of the federal permit process, a Section 7 consultation under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) will be required.”

“… the project may require an essential fish habitat (EFH) consultation with NMFS Habitat Conservation Division (HCD) as part of the federal permit process. By letter dated June 2, 2006, NMFS HCD provided comments to the USACE in response to a previous major land and water application for a small boat marina only in the same location. At the time, NMFS HCD had significant concerns regarding the proposed marina and associated impacts to the dense seagrass beds in the area, as well as potential impacts to water quality.”

Click the following link to read NOAA’s entire response: NOAA Response

From the Fish and Wildlife Service…

“While the applicant states that there are not wetlands in the project site, there are special aquatic sites such as seagrass beds which are regulated by the Clean Water Act.”

“A total of 2500 square feet of marine bottom will be directly impacted by the placements of piles; however the entire footprint of the project should be considered for impacts.”

Regarding the Summer’s End Group’s proposed mitigation plans, the Fish and Wildlife Service does not think think the plans are adequate.

Lastly, the Fish and Wildlife Service stated that the permit should not be issued until its concerns and recommendations are adequately addressed.

Click the following link to read the Fish and Wildlife Service’s entire response: Fish and Wildlife Service Response

More on the Proposed Coral Bay Marina

st. john marina landside view

So yesterday morning we received a 37-page document regarding the proposed Coral Bay marina. I have to admit, what I read what jaw-dropping. The presentation contained information on seven phases including a proposed mega yacht marina, upscale shopping area, boutique resort and more.

I contacted Rick Barksdale, one of the principles of the proposed yacht club, shortly after reviewing the document. I then shared excerpts of the presentation with all of you.

I initially thought the presentation was created for up upcoming meeting at the Legislature Building. I’ve since been told that’s not the case.

When I reached out to Rick, I stated that I thought he misrepresented his intentions for the proposed yacht club in previous conversations with me. I stated that I felt he “pulled the wool over my eyes.” The following is Rick’s initial response to me, of which he granted me permission to share:

“The wool has been pulled over your eyes, but not by me.

Our intentions are for a full service marina and an upland complex. This fact is clearly stated and is free for everyone to see through our permit application.

The document in question is over 2 years old. At that time we had the occasion to connect with funding sources and potential investors who asked us to package our marina project with other potential development opportunities with a minimum of CapEx of $100m.

After heartfelt consideration of the options we decided that while many opportunities exist, a marina that serviced a wide variety of vessels from local sail and power boats, charter boats, transient boats and yachts would best serve St. John.

We’ve streamlined our permitting process with both territorial and federal agencies by minimizing our project and at every turn sought advice from a wide variety of locals and experts.

Don’t be fooled Jenn. This is an attempt to create panic.

They are clearly trying to divert attention from a thoughtful, well planned marina project application opposed by those who seek to limit a better life for St. John families now and in the future.”

I then asked Rick to send me the most current proposal. I also asked him to clarify which of the seven phases mentioned in the 37-page presentation were included in his current plans. The following is his response:

“The entire ‘new proposal’ as you refer to it is available at the library and at the DPNR office here on St. John. But it is not ‘new’ it is the only proposal we’ve ever submitted. Our permit application is hundreds of pages of technical data and drawings and is too big to attach.

As described in our permit application, the St. John Marina project consists of docks for a variety of boat sizes and types, upland parcels including Coco Loba, Voyages, Island Blues and across the street, the Shoreline Inn and vacant land next to it.

You’ve seen the illustrative drawings of what we are proposing in our permit application and they look nothing like what you’ve posted!

The bottom line is our comprehensive permit application is the result of years of painstaking research and coordination with permit authorities. Those that oppose a sustainably managed environment, culture and economy will resort to any means, including misdirection from the facts and creating hysteria.

If you want facts, check out our permit application and/or go to the Facebook page for The Summer’s End Group.”

So at this point, I’m really not sure what to think. We do know that the 37-page document we referred to yesterday was in fact created by the Summer’s End Yacht Club. They stated that it was outdated, but we are not 100 percent convinced of that. We are also not sure who the “they” are that Rick refers to with regard to people who are trying to “divert attention…” We’re going to leave it up to all of you to make your own decision on whether or not this proposed marina is in the best interest of the community.

It’s Happening: Marina Coming to Coral Bay

new marina pic

There’s been quite a bit of talk lately over two proposed marinas in Coral Bay. Well we can tell you today with certainty that at least one of the planned marinas is happening.

“After nearly 5 years of painstaking research, studies and community input, the Summer’s End Group, LLC, sustainable developers of the St. John marina, The Yacht Club at Summer’s End (YCSE) is pleased to announce that the Department of Planning and Natural Resources has deemed our application complete for St. John’s long awaited marina,” YCSE wrote in an email to News of St. John Monday.

According to the email, the marina will be located in the “waters across from Island Blues, Voyages and Coco Loba” and will be a “full service, sustainably developed marina offering waste water pump out, fuel, provisioning, restaurants, entertainment, shopping and all of the other services and amenities you’d expect from a state of the art, world class, recreational marina facility.”

The team described the marina as being a sustainably guided local effort.

“The Summer’s End Group, LLC’s members are full time St. Johnians including Chaliese Summers, Managing Member, Rick Barksdale and Robert O’Connor, Jr. and others who love St. John, her natural beauty and all that she has to offer. The team assembled to design the sustainably developed marina project consists of USVI based marine biologist, architects and engineers, a local cultural anthropologist and other experts whose life experience on St. John, and design, construction and marina development experience total over 150 years.

“In a concerted effort to sustainably improve the health of Coral Harbor, the Summer’s End Group has worked diligently with the Coral Bay Watershed Management Plan Phase ll and DPNR to address the issues of storm water runoff, and non-compliant activities both on land and water. Independently, we have also formed a Marine Uses Advisory Panel comprised of knowledgeable St. Johnians and experts to help guide the ongoing improvements offered by a sustainable approach to growth and island life.”

The marina will have 145 slips, and according to YCSE, it will create more than 90 jobs totaling more than $3 million in labor income annually, as well as a total annual economic impact of more than $8.7 million.