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PFA member opposes dredging, supports maintenance of harbor

Posted on August 10, 2022

Recently there have been a number of submissions to Letters to the Editor regarding the proposed dredging of St. Thomas Harbor. The letters have largely been in support of the dredging needed to deepen the turning basin adjacent to the West Indian Company dock. I agree with the project and wholeheartedly with Mr. Mark Wenner’s position as set forth in his letter to the editor on Friday, Aug. 5, regarding the necessity for this maintenance dredging and in opposition to the proposed Long Bay Landing Project.

As a member of the Board of Directors of the Public Finance Authority, representing the St. Thomas-St. John District, I voted in favor of the proposed maintenance dredging project. I believe it is necessary to ensure that cruise ships can continue to dock at WICO and that the Oasis-class ships can be accommodated there. However, my support of the dredging does not in any way negate my total opposition to the proposed Long Bay Landing Dock.

At the PFA meeting, I made it very clear that my vote was only for the maintenance dredging and not in anyway to facilitate the Long Bay Landing Dock Project. This is my third submission to Letters to the Editor in opposition to the project. (March 2017, March 2021).

At the PFA meeting where the dredging project was discussed, I specifically inquired from Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. that the proposed dredging is confined to the turning channel and intended to accommodate the ships docking at WICO and not as a prelude to the creation of the Long Bay Landing Dock. I was assured by Bryan that the Long Bay project is on hold, and that the dredging is only to accommodate ships, including the Oasis-class ships docking at WICO as the area has become quite shallow in certain areas. As such it poses a danger to large ships, which could become grounded, creating a serious problems at the mouth of the harbor. I have requested a copy of the dredging plans but have not received them as of this date.

At the PFA meeting, both Gov. Bryan and WICO Executive Director Anthony Ottley lamented that if we cannot accommodate the mega-ships we will lose cruise ship business. I contend that if WICO can accommodate Oasis-class ships then there is no need to build another dock as Crown Bay already accommodates Oasis-class ships, and it and WICO would be able to handle three to four mega-ships in one day, which is more than enough for us to handle on our small island.

Gov. Bryan and Mr. Ottley both acknowledged that more and more the cruise ships have become the destination as opposed to the ports, as many passengers remain on the ships utilizing the many attractions afforded to them on board. The ships have their own gift shops that often undersell and compete with our shops and stores. Instead of being our partners they are now our competitors. They have also developed their own islands, which include many attractions and beaches. Cruise ship companies are focused on their profits first and foremost.

Are we really going to destroy our beautiful harbor to accommodate these larger ships, making the cruise companies more profitable at our expense? We need to focus on what is best for our beautiful island. Let us concentrate our efforts in attracting tourists who stay in our hotels, guest houses and Airbnbs, spend their money in our stores, eat in our restaurants, rent cars and take taxis. Let us not fall prey to the cruise ship companies at the expense of what makes our island such a desirable place to live in and visit.

In studying this issue, I reviewed the minutes of several WICO board meetings and learned that if the present problems with the current litigation regarding the Long Bay Landing site cannot be resolved, the dock will be located further to the west near the old pumping station and in front of the local and federal courthouses. Such a massive dock will ruin the beautiful vistas of our harbor and create a boondoggle and a traffic nightmare on the beautifully new expanded Veterans Drive.

Another concern expressed by Mr. Ottley as to a why a new dock was needed in our harbor was that in surveys received from passengers about their visit here they complain that getting from WICO to town was too far to walk. It is hard to believe that cruise passengers object to the short taxi ride from WICO to Main Street. This concern is absolutely no reason to build a new dock closer to town. We need to ensure that this new dock never gets built in our harbor. At present the new dock is on hold but St. Thomas residents need to make their opposition clear before it is too late.

— Dorothy M. Isaacs, Esq., St. Thomas.

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