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HomeNewsArchivesPARK'S MOORING PLAN HAS BOATERS CONCERNED

PARK'S MOORING PLAN HAS BOATERS CONCERNED

Aug. 30, 2002 – In response to concerns by boaters, the V.I. National Park has extended its deadline until Sept. 9 for reviewing a draft environmental assessment for the installation of hurricane and other moorings in the Coral Reef National Monument.
Comments were originally due Sept. 2 following a month-long opportunity to review the environmental impacts of a mooring system. Park Superintendent John King said the environmental assessment deals with the possible damage caused by "drilling holes in the ocean floor" to place sandscrews to hold the moorings in place.
St. John boater Elsa Angel was pleased that King understood that boaters had concerns.
"There is an outcry. Hopefully this will increase people's attention to the matter," Angel said.
The plan calls for:
— the installation of hurricane moorings in Hurricane Hole's Princess Bay and Borck, Otter and Water Creeks. The mooring system will hold about 100 boats up to 75 feet long.
— ten or more overnight moorings to be installed for use the rest of the year.
— up to 10 fishing moorings in an area that runs from Ram's Head to Cabrite Point on St. John's South Side.
— installing two dive moorings at Eagle Shoals off the Coral Bay area and at Booby Rock outside Salt Pond.
The hurricane mooring system utilizes a chain system similar to that already used in nearby Tortola. The other types will use the traditional ball system.
The areas are within the Coral Reef National Monument, which is managed by the park.
While the environmental assessment currently under review addresses the environmental impact on the national monument, King said boaters expressed concern that the conceptual design in the assessment is exactly what the park plans to install.
Not so, said the superintendent. "We're a long way from developing a design for the system," King said.
He said park staff met with boaters during the past year to develop the concept, and they will be included in the final design discussions. "I'm trying to make this as inclusive a process as possible," King said.
He said the public will have ample opportunity to comment on the mooring design once the details are worked out.
Sharon Coldron, a St. John boater who put together a list of complaints expressed by an ad hoc group of boaters, said it was not correct to write an environmental assessment report without taking into account the final mooring design.
She said the environmental assessment does not take into account the impact by other things like goats eating the mangroves and the storm runoff from a road that, in some areas, runs along the edge of the national monument. Colron said the money spent on the moorings might be better used on other ways to protect the mangroves.
She worried that boaters would have to give up their anchoring rights to use the hurricane mooring system. She said this would be unpalatable to boaters.
"We have to get the National Park Service to acknowledge our rights under the proclamation," she said, referring to the proclamation that created the Coral Reef National Monument. She said she does not believe the government can restrict boaters' right to anchor.
Coldron also said that boaters are "obligated to protect their own boats from damaging other boats." By giving up their right to anchor, they would compromise their ability to carry out this obligation.
She also took issue with the park's plans to put in dive boat moorings. Coldron said she and other boaters do not support this type of tourism in the National Monument, preferring instead that the area be viewed as "back country" similar to practices at land-based parks. In these instances, visitors need permits to hike into remote areas that have no developed campgrounds.
In response to concerns raised by boaters that no anchoring would be allowed after the hurricane mooring system is in place, King said he doubts that the park will have enough money to install a mooring system large enough to hold all the boats that want to seek safety in Hurricane Hole. Therefore, they will probably have to anchor.
The park hopes to have some of the moorings in place before the 2003 hurricane season begins.
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