April 21, 2003 – There are no surprises in the Interim Rules and Regulations issued this month by the National Park Service for the Coral Reef National Monument off St. John and the expansion of the Buck Island Reef National Monument off St. Croix.
The plans have been laid out at numerous public meetings held by various government officials and agencies since President Clinton announced the designation of the monuments in 2000.
The interim rules go into effect on May 5. They will remain in place until permanent rules are adopted.
The rules prohibit fishing in monument waters, except for bait fishing in St. John's Hurricane Hole and for blue runner in the area south of St. John in Coral Reef National Monument. Both types of fishing require a National Park Service permit.
Hand-line fishing and use of fish pots and nets will be allowed until May 5 at Buck Island outside the marine garden; after that, all fishing will be prohibited under the new rules.
"If any fisherman needs help moving his traps out of the monument, we will help," St. Croix's park superintendent, Joel Tutein, said.
Anchoring, except for emergency purposes, is prohibited at Coral Reef National Monument. Boats will be allowed to anchor in Hurricane Hole to ride out storms, and the Friends of the V.I. National Park plans to install a hurricane mooring system there to help protect the environment.
At Buck Island, boaters must use the 13 moorings by the snorkel trail on the eastern end. Tutein said he hasn't decided what to do about anchoring on the western end near the sandy beach. He said the rules allow him either to designate an anchoring area, which would be marked off with buoys, or to require boaters to get a permit at the National Park Service office before proceeding to Buck Island.
On that issue, "I'm keeping my options open 'til I meet with the community," Tutein said.
The rules prohibit "personal watercraft" such as Jet Skis and Wave Runners in the waters of both monuments. The V.I. National Park on St. John hasn't allowed personal watercraft for many years; the regulation went into effect at Buck Island only in 2000.
The interim rules prohibit all dredging, excavation and filling operations. They also protect all wrecks and abandoned cargo under the Abandoned Shipwreck Act. And they require the parks to prepare management plans for operation of the monuments. Buck Island has two years to develop its plan; the St. John park has three years.
Tutein said he will be available on April 30 from 9 a.m. to noon at the park's Post Office Building in Christiansted to discuss the new rules and regulations.
Technically, the public has until May 5 to comment on the interim regulations. However, Tutein said park officials will be listening to what the public has to say throughout the development of the management plans.
Delegate Donna M. Christensen, in a release issued on Monday from her office in Washington, D.C., said she would be submitting her response. "I encourage all with a stake in the monuments to let the park service know their thoughts so that their concerns can be accommodated in the final regulations," she said.
To comment on the Coral Reef National Monument regulations, call the superintendent's office at 776-6201, ext. 242, or the chief of resource management at 693-8950, ext. 224. Comments in writing may be mailed to Superintendent, V.I. National Park, 1300 Cruz Bay Creek, St. John VI 00830 or e-mailed to Superintendent John King.
To comment on the Buck Island Reef National Monument regulations, call 773-1460, write to Superintendent, Buck Island Reef National Monument, 2100 Church Street, Lot 100, Christiansted, St. Croix VI 00820-4611, or e-mail to Superintendent Joel Tutein.
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