Sen. Lorraine Berry says she wants to vote in favor of the government giving Beal Aerospace the St. Croix shoreline property it wants in exchange for other land the company has an option to buy, a plan Gov. Charles Turnbull endorsed on Friday.
But first, Berry said in a letter Monday to the governor, she wants answers to some questions.
"I want to bring Beal to St. Croix, for we desperately need those jobs," she said in the letter. "Please help me by providing answers. . . so that I may vote in the affirmative."
Noting that she came out in support of the property swap a few weeks ago, Berry said she was glad to hear Turnbull's endorsement. However, she said, his statement Friday failed "to address any of the serious objections. . . pointed out by scores of concerned citizens."
One issue, she said, is the fact that the Great Pond land Beal wants was given to the government 25 years ago to be held in trust for the people of the Virgin Islands.
She quoted the legal opinion of legislative attorney Yvonne Tharpes that "neither the governor nor the Legislature has authority to alter the terms and conditions" of the deed giving the land to the territory by the late Frank Weisner. Given the Public Trust Doctrine, the Beal agreement "conceivably would not withstand judicial scrutiny" and in any case "will be tied up for years in litigation," the senator said.
Also at issue, Berry said, is an executive order issued by President Clinton last year that directs all federal agencies to ensure to the extent permitted by law that any actions they authorize, fund or carry out will not damage coral reef ecosystems.
Environmental experts have pointed out, she said, that the heavy barges Beal plans to use to transport materials in and assembled rockets out will almost surely require massive dredging of Great Pond Bay, which has an abundance of coral reefs. Thus, probable opposition by the Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service represents "another project impediment which will at best take many months, if not years, to resolve."
Finally, Berry asked, why hasn't the government carried out its own appraisals of the properties proposed to be swapped?
The only appraisals offered have been provided by Beal, and those almost-equal figures don't wash, she said. What the government would get, she said, is "five acres across the street from the Adult Detention Center outside Christiansted and 10 acres in Estate Whim." This, she said, "nowhere compares in beauty and value to what we are giving up."