Sept. 25, 2008 Coral Bay Harbor ran brown. Streets were flooded with murky water, guts overflowed, and a Dumpster placed just a few feet from the harbor sent a barrage of toxins from the garbage into the sea, all thanks to this week's heavy rains.
The slide show outlining these problems demonstrated just why the Coral Bay Community Council needed a $300,000 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant awarded in July.
"The purpose is to minimize run off," Community Council President Sharon Coldren told the dozen local and federal government representatives at a meeting Thursday to kick off work on fixing the problem.
Coldren said that Coral Bay residents see storm-water runoff as the biggest problem facing the community.
While many areas of the Virgin Islands face similar issues, Coral Bay's is especially acute. The steep hillsides that slope down to the bay are home to an increasing amount of development that contributes to the storm water issue.
"Every time anyone puts in a driveway it affects people and property down below," Coldren said.
Coral Bay resident Elvis Marsh, who grew up in the area, said sediment is filling in Coral Bay Harbor. According to Marsh, a natural pond that used to help alleviate runoff problems, was filled to build a small shopping center.
Solving the problem will take collaboration by government agencies, the community and the Community Council. The grant comes under EPA's Community Action for Renewed Environment program, commonly called CARE.
EPA's St. Thomas-based coordinator, Jim Casey, said this was EPA's first CARE grant in the Caribbean.
"The goal of CARE is to help communities develop community-based programs. You've set a precedent," Casey said.
According to Casey, since the CARE program began in 2005, EPA has made 51 grants to 49 organizations across the nation. He said EPA will issue another 18 CARE grants in the fall.
Coral Bay Community Council plans to hire a storm water engineer with funds from the grant. Coldren said that the engineer will be available to advise Coral Bay area property owners on ways to mitigate storm water problems that originate at their homes and to advise people building homes and developers on ways to avoid problems.
Coldren hopes to have the engineer working on a two-year contract by Nov. 1.
The Community Council hired St. John resident Barry Devine, a marine scientist, to head up a storm water monitoring effort, Coldren said.
One way to alleviate the runoff problem could come through storm-water retention ponds. Coldren said that the Community Council will look for grant money to further that program.
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