Oct. 3, 2003 – The Senate Planning and Environmental Protection Committee has begun a series of hearings on what its chair calls "a significant and very important and historic piece of legislation" — to create a V.I. Waste Management Authority.
The bill was one of two items on the agenda as the committee met Wednesday on St. John. Sen. Louis Hill, the chair, described for fellow lawmakers and those in the audience 10 years of efforts by various government agencies that led to the introduction of the bill.
"It's a piece of legislation that's been talked about and worked on for several years," Hill said, "a result of collaboration" involving the Public Works and Planning and Natural Resources Departments, the U.S. Interior Department and Environmental Protection Agency, the Governor's Office, the Legislature and the private sector.
"I am happy and fortunate to be in the position of the chair of the Planning and Environmental Committee, to be the person to shepherd it through the Legislature at this time," he said.
The proposed authority would generate policies that are expected to change the way the territory handles its sewage and solid waste. The bill is being considered at a time when the administration is under a federal District Court decree and four EPA administrative orders to repair the wastewater collection and treatment systems on St. Thomas and St. Croix.
"We have situations of sewage running in the streets of St. Croix, St. Thomas also, on the waterfront recently," Hill said. "We have crumbling sewage pipes in various communities throughout the territory … We have the situation of the Anguilla landfill which is creating some challenges for us today."
Three years ago, the Federal Aviation Administration gave the local government a deadline of last Dec. 31 to close down the dump because it attracts birds and creates smoke which pose dangers to aircraft on takeoff and landing at nearby Henry E. Rohlsen Airport.
"The leadership of the government and I think, for the most part, the public sector has recognized that it is important that we shift from the current system of management to something that is new, that is innovative and will offer serious solutions." Hill said.
Public Works Commissioner Wayne Callwood testified at the hearing in support of the authority, saying his department is overwhelmed by the territory's growth and development and the demands of the federal government to deal with the increased generation of waste.
"The greatest factor is the growth of the community and the inability of Public Works to keep up with the growth," Callwood said. "Federal government requirements are greater now … than they ever were before."
Public Works wastewater and solid waste manager Sonia Nelthropp promised to detail how the new authority would be structured and how it would function at the committee's next meeting, scheduled for 10 a.m. Oct. 10 on St. Croix. She said the authority can be viewed as a new revenue engine for the government, with startup funds expected to be returned once trash service fees are in place and collections begin.
A third hearing is scheduled for Oct. 16 on St. Thomas.
Krum Bay floating dinghy dock permit okayed
At Wednesday's meeting, the committee also approved a Public Works request for a minor Coastal Zone Management permit to establish a floating dinghy dock in Krum Bay on St. Thomas for use by boaters who have been ordered by the U.S. Coast Guard to cease using their traditional dock in Crown Bay. Approval came despite objection by the Senate's chief legal counsel that CZM rules do not list floating docks among the structures to be covered by a minor permit.
After the meeting, Hill said timing was a factor in the committee's approval of the permit. "This issue came up when the Coast Guard did a security analysis of the Crown Bay area and the fact that we had cruise ship passengers coming in," he said.
Identifying the existing dinghy docking operation, long used by Water Island residents, among others, as a security risk, "the Coast Guard had requested from the Port Authority that all of those operators who came into the area be removed," Hill said. "As a result, we had to establish a new location for those residents."
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