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St. Thomas VI Coastal Zone Management Committee Approves St. Thomas Harbor Dredging

Posted on February 16, 2024

The St. Thomas Coastal Zone Management Committee approved two measures related to St. Thomas Harbor dredging on Tuesday evening.

Over the course of the V.I. Port Authority’s project, the harbor’s entrance channel will be dredged to a 40 feet below the Mean Lowest Low Water — or MLLW. The West Indian Co. berth will be dredged to 36 feet below MLLW and the turning basin to a minimum depth of 38 feet below MLLW.

Presenting on behalf of the V.I. Port Authority, environmental consultant Amy Dempsey shared that the overall dredging volume will be reduced from 255,118 to 216,173 cubic yards, while the dredging area will slightly increase.

The approximately 200 corals lying in the dredging area will be transplanted before any dredging activity begins, she said.

Dempsey said the project is “extremely close” to receiving a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and has obtained concurrences from the National Marine Fisheries Service Protected Resources and Critical Habitat Division, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Of the 216,173 cubic yards of sediment to be removed, Dempsey said approximately 60,000 is similar to the sand found on Virgin Islands beaches and did not contain elevated metals or other contaminants, making it viable for beach nourishment projects. The remainder will be barged to a borrow pit on St. Croix, north of Rohlsen Airport.

“Which will be a beneficial use for the borrow pit, because right now Port Authority owns a hole in the ground,” Dempsey said, adding that filling the borrow pit over time could allow for an expansion of the island’s industrial park in that area.

Port Authority Engineering Director Preston Beyer said potential disposal sites on St. Thomas were assessed, but they either had insufficient space or were cost ineffective.

“So we found that this was going to be the least environmentally damaging, practicable alternative, as fits the needs of our permit with the US. Army Corps of Engineers as well,” he said.

The Committee also greenlit a redesign of construction and dredging work for Yacht Haven Grande. Eric Simonton, the marina’s executive vice president of real estate, said a second phase had always been envisioned for the project.

By constructing two additional piers totaling 23,300 additional square feet and installing a 555-foot-long mooring chain, the project is intended to help the marina accommodate charter boats — particularly 40 to 70-foot catamarans — as well as vessels longer than 80 meters, according to Tuesday night’s presentation.

“They’re only getting bigger, and we’re going to have more capacity to bring them into the territory and show them what a great place it is to visit, and encourage them to spend all their money with us,” Simonton said.

Simonton said the marina expansion will generate an additional $5 million of economic activity once completed, according to an economic impact calculator developed by the University of Florida.

Dredging of the marina was made necessary because of siltation from cruise ships and storm runoff from St. Thomas, according to the presentation. That work will likely be done in conjunction with the Port Authority’s own dredging.


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