July 28, 2005 – A St. Croix organization on Thursday sought to counter the efforts of "special interest groups" by writing a letter of support for the approval of a permit application to dredge the Ann E. Abramson pier in Frederiksted.
The letter was written by the USVI Coalition for Sustainable Economic Development, Inc., (VISED) a member of Team St. Croix, which is an umbrella group representing more than 16 non-profit organizations. The member agencies of Team St Croix supported the dredging and urged officials to expedite the process.
Previously, some dive shop operators and environmentalists voiced their concern that the abundant marine life beneath the pier will be negatively impacted. St. Croix Environmental Association (SEA) Executive Director Megan Schoenfelt expressed her opinion days before the permit to dredge was approved. "We know a pier is for ships, but there have to be environmental considerations," Schoenfelt said. (See "Decision on Pier Dredging Permit Expected Thursday")
Another environmentalist, Dan Odell, who taught marine science at Central High School for 23 years, has been snorkeling and diving around the pier for more than two decades. He recalled a former controversy when the original pier was destroyed to make way for the present pier. In April, Odell said he was surprised at how much the marine life has grown back since the new pier was built: "I am going to have to eat my words. It has come back. It is beautiful." (See "Marine Life Teems Beneath Frederiksted Pier")
"We support the V.I. Port Authority and the V.I. Department of Tourism in their quest to secure approval," VISED's letter read. "The approval by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is essential in the revitalization process of the island of St. Croix and its economy, which is dependent upon a fully operational Port Frederiksted."
The letter continued: "There exists a strong lobbying effort by a 'special interest group' to thwart the approval of the permit. If the application is disapproved, it will have dire consequences for the entire population and economy of St. Croix. Therefore, we urge its approval." The letter was signed by VISED executive director Hortense Rowe.
The Coastal Zone Management committee in April held a hearing on St. Croix where the members accepted a permit modification to allow the V.I. Port Authority to commence work on the Ann E. Abramson Marine Facility pier.
The vote cleared the way for VIPA to dredge the southern berth of the pier, removing approximately 20,000 cubic yards of debris and piling left from the original pier, which is protruding through the sea floor. VIPA can also dredge the north berth of the pier to remove 30,000 cubic yards of sand. The dredged material would be stored at the Gordon Finch molasses pier. (See "Permit Approved for Dredging in Frederiksted")
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