The main hurdle facing the V.I. Port Authority's proposed dredging of St. Thomas harbor is out of the way: Land at Crown Bay has been substituted for Lindbergh Bay as the location for the dredged material, called the spoils.
Dumping the harbor spoils into a hole in Lindbergh Bay has been the project's main point of contention. Everyone agreed the harbor should be dredged to accommodate the large mega-cruise ships, but almost no one has agreed on where the spoils should go.
Some environmentalists and federal officials strongly endorsed the Lindbergh Bay site. Others, including the Environmental Association of St. Thomas, wanted proof it wouldn't harm the beach.
The St. Thomas-St. John Chamber of Commerce and the St. Thomas-St. John Hotel and Tourism Association put their opposition in writing at a Senate hearing.
Darlan Brin, VIPA senior planner, is happy to have all the controversy behind him. He wants to get the dredging under way soon, before hurricane season and while dredging equipment is already on the island, negating the cost of bringing it from the mainland.
Brin said harbor soil samples have been returned from a mainland lab and are being reviewed by technicians from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. He said he anticipates no problem, and he should have the results Friday.
The next step is getting a permit waiver from Coastal Zone Management. Brin said that could be as early as next week if the CZM board meets, and if it grants the waiver.
Then an archeological assessment of the harbor, which should only take about a week, must be completed before the dredging starts. At about the same time harbor sea grass will be mitigated and moved by Water Island and the outer harbor.
Crown Bay will be a good spot for the spoils, Brin said, because VIPA will use the material for an extension of the existing dock and won't have to haul it to the Bovoni landfill. About 50,000 cubic yards of the spoils will go to Crown Bay. The balance will sit on West Indian Co. Ltd. property at Long Bay until it can be hauled to Bovoni.
The Public Works Department has said it will accept the material at Crown Bay and use it as cover, pending the dock extension work. Then, Brin said, the project will need a water quality certificate from Planning and Natural Resources.
One anti-Lindbergh Bay advocate was "delighted they made the correct decision." William Dowling, Carib Beach Hotel owner and Lindbergh Bay resident for almost 50 years, said, "Thank God no one knows how long the water would have been murky if they had dumped in the bay."
Chamber executive director Joe Aubain liked the decision too. The chamber had voiced concern about the economic impact on the three hotels and restaurant dotting the beach of dumping dredged material there.