Headline in The New York Times — “WAPA Oil Barge Hits Reef Inside Christiansted Harbor, All Areas Covered in Oil, People Flee.” No it’s not true yet, but each time that oil barge enters our dangerous harbor it exists as possibility. We have all been looking at that huge modern cruise ship on its side in Italy. Those poor people, like us, depend on a beautiful harbor for tourism and the historic pleasure that the old harbor gives. Last year there were numerous oil spills from barges and ships around the world, spilling thousands of barrels of oil. Like ours, these harbors have been entered for decades even centuries without a spill. Then one day everything is dead.
Can you imagine an oil spill flooding all our sandy beaches from WAPA to Gallows Bay? Hotel on the Cay would be wiped out, the boardwalk and all the surrounding area would be destroyed. Our inner harbor has a 2 knot current. It is one of the most dangerous harbor entrances in the Caribbean. I’ve been a Coast Guard licensed captain myself and for years sailed into every port in the Caribbean and have sailed in here many many times over the last thirty plus years and it always a challenge. The entrance begins with a dogleg entry then, you are surprised by round reef right where it should not be. Many a boat has gone aground on that reef. Every Captain relies on experience and luck. You may have successfully done it a hundred times without a problem, then one day something snaps or goes haywire and before you can blink you is aground.
An oil spill in that narrow WAPA channel would rapidly flow in the swift current killing all the sea life from long reef to Fort Augusta and beyond. If this were to happen no amount of advertising about “come to St. Croix” would bring a single person here. See how many airline flights we would have then. You would be able to play cricket at the empty airport without hitting anyone with the ball. Speaking to the captain, who dredged that channel a few years ago, I was told that it is cut into sharp coral. If the oil barge hit it, and it passes very close every time, it could easily rip a hole in it. You ask why?
Why, because WAPA has refused to work on closing the old power plant and moving the power generating to the Industrial area at Hovensa. If for no other reason, let us take this opportunity to protect ourselves and all future generations from this potential disaster. Just because you have not had an accident yet, don’t think that gives you any insurance that tomorrow it will not happen. I again plead with Delegate Donna to have the Interior Dept., make the move happen.
Respectfully, Bob White, St. Croix