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HomeNewsArchivesDPNR ENFORCEMENT CHIEF SENDS WRONG MESSAGE

DPNR ENFORCEMENT CHIEF SENDS WRONG MESSAGE

In the hallways and main rooms of the Legislature and Government House, government leaders decry the loss of marine-based businesses. The Chamber of Commerce forms special committees to try to make the U.S. Virgin Islands more attractive to charter boats, their crews and the well-heeled guests they serve.
Boats and their owners and crews do not spend the hurricane season in the Virgin Islands without good reasons. Those that remain — to work, to prepare for the upcoming tourist season, to continue to circulate dollars through the Virgin Island economy — know that there is a risk involved. Everyone in the Virgin Islands knows someone who has lost a home or a business in the storms of the last decade. The loss of boats represents exactly that same loss — in some cases a double loss, both home and business to these V.I. citizens.
Department of Planning and Natural Resources enforcement chief Lucia Roberts apparently is not aware of these issues. Roberts’ decisions involving opening of safe havens for boats, and the follow-up enforcement of moving boaters out again and allowing them in again, would make great comedy if a bad result did not chance death and serious loss of property.
So far, luckily, the major result has been to punish those who have obeyed enforcement officers. Those boaters who moved out when ordered to do so just saw their cozy spots taken by other boaters who moved in when the officers were not around. Roberts announced that there would be no "live-aboards" in the safe havens. This has forced some boaters to become stealth sleepers, like the homeless who have to find a spot for the night after the last cop has passed and then must get up and go before the first one comes by in the morning.
Now that Roberts has created a class of V.I. citizens that sleeps in fear of being ticketed for sleeping at home and cannot work on their businesses during the day for fear of being fined, she has announced that next year they will have to pay for this privilege. In fact the stated rate of 50 cents per foot per day is higher on a monthly basis than having a boat pulled out of the water and stored on dry land.
But these outrages finally had a positive result. The voices of these Virgin Island citizens and taxpayers got loud enough to come to the attention of Sen. Almando "Rocky" Liburd and PNR Commissioner Dean Plaskett. A meeting in St. John connected faces, lives, people and community contributions to the term "live-aboard boater."
The results of this meeting, better communication between the boating community and the primary section of government affecting that community, may have been worth the negative actions that preceded. We hope so. Otherwise the primary lesson learned by U.S. Virgin Islands boaters is that they are at the mercy of the enforcement chief of PNR, which seemed to be the message she was sending all along.
If we really want to bring the lucrative marine industry back to the U.S. Virgin Islands, we need to act like it. As things stand now, we ought to be asking ourselves why any of the marine business stays here, not why it goes elsewhere.

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