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HomeNewsArchivesEAST for Using Aquifer Funds to Buy Lindqvist Land

EAST for Using Aquifer Funds to Buy Lindqvist Land

July 4, 2004 – One of the territory's leading environmental advocacy agencies has come out in support of the government's request for federal court approval to use money from settlement of the Tutu aquifer and Turpentine Run pollution case to buy the Lindqvist Beach property through eminent domain proceedings.
Planning and Natural Resources Commissioner Dean Plaskett, as trustee of the territory's natural resources, filed a petition in District Court last month seeking permission to do that. (See "Wellfields Settlement Funds Eyed to Acquire Lindqvist".)
Carla Joseph, president of the Environmental Association of St. Thomas-St. John, wrote to Chief District Judge Raymond Finch on Thursday expressing EAST's "adamant support" of the request to utilize $1.7 million from the settlement to acquire the 21 acres of Lindqvist land.
Joseph said EAST agrees with Plaskett's premise: that because the aquifer was so extensively contaminated in the 1970s and '80s "that the sites can never be returned to their original state," it would be appropriate to use part of the settlement to preserve another natural resource of high environmental value — Lindqvist Beach.
"Realizing that the settlement was indeed put aside to restore, replace or acquire the equivalent of such natural resources, based on CERCLA statute under which provisions the settlement was reached, therefore it would definitely be fitting to utilize the same funding to purchase Lindqvist Beach," the EAST letter stated.
CERCLA is the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980. It was under this act that the territory made its claim for natural resource damage. The Tutu aquifer and Turpentine Run were designated a Superfund site by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1988. The territory won $8.9 million in October 2001 in settlement of the case against several alleged industrial polluters.
"Because CERCLA requires the funds to be utilized for specific limited purposes, the trustee wants to ensure that the settlement funds are used appropriately and that the court concurs in the intended use," Plaskett's motion in District Court states.
In support of the proposed use, Joseph wrote that Lindqvist Beach is "one of the last remaining undeveloped beaches on the eastern end of St. Thomas," with "a thriving coral reef habitat, mangroves, seagrass beds and a salt pond." Moreover, she said, the area "serves as a historical feeding and breeding ground for numerous endangered species" and also "is a premier recreational beach for many residents and visitors due to its undeveloped state and easy access."
Concerns have been raised about continuing access to the beach and the potential environmental impact of planned development on the land. The property is owned by V.I. Investments LLC, which purchased it last year from another private owner and is proposing to build 24 homes on the land.
EAST publicly came out last December in favor of the government buying the Lindqvist property. (See "EAST Supports Public Acquisition of Lindqvist".)
Joseph at that time said EAST was "particularly troubled" by the plans announced by the owners that week for the 24-home development. The plans were "in direct contradiction to a previous minor [Coastal Zone Management] permit submitted to DPNR for construction of only two private homes on the property," she said. "With the unveiling of this new development proposal, EAST's concerns that the developer would try to 'back-door' permit approvals for a subdivision by submitting piecemeal permit applications appear to be justified."
About $2.5 million from Public Finance Authority bond proceeds has been set aside for government acquisition of the Lindqvist land. However, according to Attorney General Iver Stridiron, the average of three independent assessments of the property earlier this year put the value of the land at $4.2 million.
Joseph's Thursday letter to Finch urged him to approve Plaskett's request to use the $1.7 million from the contamination case settlement "to purchase and preserve this environmentally sensitive and culturally important site, since it is too late to preserve the Tutu aquifer and Turpentine Run sites."
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