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Stakeholders Eager to See East End Watershed Plan Implemented

Anne Kitchell, the senior environmental planner for Horsley Witten Group, goes over the St. Croix East End water-management plan at the St. Croix Yacht Club.The final meeting for public comment on the St. Croix East End watershed-management plan spawned discussion among the small group of key stakeholders and community members eager to see the plan implemented—before it’s too late.

Approximately 20 people arrived at the St. Croix Yacht Club Tuesday night to discuss the plan, an in-depth study and overview developed last year by the Horsley Witten Group, a Massachusetts-based environmental planning firm.

Representatives from the V.I. Department of Planning and Natural Resources, the V.I. Waste Management Authority, the St. Croix Environmental Association, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) were there to go over the final draft.

The project addresses six watersheds that are draining into the St. Croix East End Marine Park, and Buck Island on St. Croix, which are causing eroding sediment to be polluting the coral reef systems. The yearlong project was initiated by the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program and DPNR to address the watersheds, which include: Great Bond Bay, Southgate, Solitude, Madam Carty, Teague Bay, and Turner Hole.

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Anne Kitchell, the senior environmental planner for Horsley Witten, gave an hour-long slide show presentation, highlighting the key points of the plan, which can be viewed entirely on their website.

“This is the last of three meetings and our hope is that the plan gets ultimately implemented, right now it’s only a plan,” Kitchell said. “Of course as with any plan, it requires funding, but St. John had a similar plan and they are benefitting greatly from it.”

The six watersheds of the East End span over 12 square miles of land made up of residential and rural/agriculture pasture lands, with a few commercial businesses. According to the draft plan, annual rainfall in the area ranges from 38-42 inches across the region, and the soils in the area are poorly draining, causing sediment to run into the ocean.

Due to the unstable guts in the region comprised of unpaved roads, the exposed soils cause sediment to be deposited in region waters, which throughout the year, depending on rainfall, cause a significant amount of health advisories. The waters are basically becoming progressively unsafe.

According to Olasee Davis, an ecologist and associate professor at UVI, the guts have gotten significantly worse over the years. Davis grew up on St. Croix and has seen the damage from building projects on the East End—he’s concerned the plan will get pushed aside like others before.

“I have seen so many plans in my life that have never been implemented,” Davis said. “But it’s imperative that if we do not do this, our quality of life will go down and we live in a tourism-driven economy.”

The draft plan is comprised of 53 pages of data, maps, and recommendations, like paving roads, stabilizing trails, installing culverts, and managing pollution by using preventative measures.

“It’s a start, at least we have something to work with now,” Davis said.

Paige Rothenberger, DPNR’s Coral Reef Initiative coordinator, said that plan will hopefully become a tool that can be used over time and will be transferable. She said it would be a good idea to meet with people from St. John who have had success with their Coral Bay watershed project.

“It would be great if we could meet with them and transfer some of that knowledge to implanting this new plan,” Rothenberger said.

Funding was obtained from NOAA and the U.S. Agriculture Department’s Natural Resource Conservation Service, and according to Kitchell more than $180,000 was spent in the last year for the plan. It included five engineering designs and an in-depth road survey of the area.

The St. Croix Environmental Association, which owns more than 100 acres in the Southgate watershed, also recently received a $75,000 federal grant from the National Resource Conservation Service to get the project moving.

While the meeting was the last of three public meetings to address the plan, Kitchell said they still have a lot of work to do and she plans to come back for a similar watershed plan that is being conducted on St. Thomas for the St. Thomas East End Reserve.

To view a PDF of the St. Croix East End watershed planning project draft plan in its entirety, please visit the Horsley Witten Group website.

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Anne Kitchell, the senior environmental planner for Horsley Witten Group, goes over the St. Croix East End water-management plan at the St. Croix Yacht Club.The final meeting for public comment on the St. Croix East End watershed-management plan spawned discussion among the small group of key stakeholders and community members eager to see the plan implemented—before it's too late.

Approximately 20 people arrived at the St. Croix Yacht Club Tuesday night to discuss the plan, an in-depth study and overview developed last year by the Horsley Witten Group, a Massachusetts-based environmental planning firm.

Representatives from the V.I. Department of Planning and Natural Resources, the V.I. Waste Management Authority, the St. Croix Environmental Association, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) were there to go over the final draft.

The project addresses six watersheds that are draining into the St. Croix East End Marine Park, and Buck Island on St. Croix, which are causing eroding sediment to be polluting the coral reef systems. The yearlong project was initiated by the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program and DPNR to address the watersheds, which include: Great Bond Bay, Southgate, Solitude, Madam Carty, Teague Bay, and Turner Hole.

Anne Kitchell, the senior environmental planner for Horsley Witten, gave an hour-long slide show presentation, highlighting the key points of the plan, which can be viewed entirely on their website.

“This is the last of three meetings and our hope is that the plan gets ultimately implemented, right now it’s only a plan,” Kitchell said. “Of course as with any plan, it requires funding, but St. John had a similar plan and they are benefitting greatly from it.”

The six watersheds of the East End span over 12 square miles of land made up of residential and rural/agriculture pasture lands, with a few commercial businesses. According to the draft plan, annual rainfall in the area ranges from 38-42 inches across the region, and the soils in the area are poorly draining, causing sediment to run into the ocean.

Due to the unstable guts in the region comprised of unpaved roads, the exposed soils cause sediment to be deposited in region waters, which throughout the year, depending on rainfall, cause a significant amount of health advisories. The waters are basically becoming progressively unsafe.

According to Olasee Davis, an ecologist and associate professor at UVI, the guts have gotten significantly worse over the years. Davis grew up on St. Croix and has seen the damage from building projects on the East End—he’s concerned the plan will get pushed aside like others before.

“I have seen so many plans in my life that have never been implemented,” Davis said. “But it’s imperative that if we do not do this, our quality of life will go down and we live in a tourism-driven economy.”

The draft plan is comprised of 53 pages of data, maps, and recommendations, like paving roads, stabilizing trails, installing culverts, and managing pollution by using preventative measures.

“It’s a start, at least we have something to work with now,” Davis said.

Paige Rothenberger, DPNR’s Coral Reef Initiative coordinator, said that plan will hopefully become a tool that can be used over time and will be transferable. She said it would be a good idea to meet with people from St. John who have had success with their Coral Bay watershed project.

“It would be great if we could meet with them and transfer some of that knowledge to implanting this new plan,” Rothenberger said.

Funding was obtained from NOAA and the U.S. Agriculture Department’s Natural Resource Conservation Service, and according to Kitchell more than $180,000 was spent in the last year for the plan. It included five engineering designs and an in-depth road survey of the area.

The St. Croix Environmental Association, which owns more than 100 acres in the Southgate watershed, also recently received a $75,000 federal grant from the National Resource Conservation Service to get the project moving.

While the meeting was the last of three public meetings to address the plan, Kitchell said they still have a lot of work to do and she plans to come back for a similar watershed plan that is being conducted on St. Thomas for the St. Thomas East End Reserve.

To view a PDF of the St. Croix East End watershed planning project draft plan in its entirety, please visit the Horsley Witten Group website.