June 13, 2003 – It was a long time coming, but speakers and St. John residents who attended Friday's groundbreaking for the Enighed Pond commercial port said they were pleased that the project is finally happening.
"I'm glad I lived long enough," St. John resident Ruth "Sis" Frank, 79, said.
The project has been on the books since 1971. Construction should be done by July 2004.
It was a feel-good day for the government officials and residents who gathered at Pond Mouth to see the ceremonial shovels go in the ground. "I'm proud that it has become a reality," Gov. Charles W. Turnbull said.
Work has been under way since April, although no workers were on the job Friday. And the Port Authority's executive director, Darlan Brin, was noticeably absent from the ceremony. Monifa Marrero, VIPA public information officer, said he was in Puerto Rico attending a meeting with U.S. Coast Guard officials — on the Enighed Pond project.
Speaker after speaker heaped praise on Brin, who as the Port Authority's chief planner doggedly pushed the project forward in recent years despite numerous snags.
While speakers also had good words to say about the string of St. John administrators who urged the project forward, none mentioned the late St. John senator, Theovald Moorehead.
It was Moorehead who had the vision to see that St. John needed a commercial port, longtime island resident Norm Gledhill said. Gledhill suggested to Sen. Almando "Rocky" Liburd that the new marine facility be named to honor Moorehead. Liburd said he would consider proposing the idea.
Liburd, a St. John resident, and Sen. Roosevelt David, who once lived on St. John and has business interests on the island, also had a part in making the project happen. Liburd pushed legislation that gave the Port Authority the right to the property, and David led the effort to secure the federal Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicle bonds, commonly called GARVEE bonds, that made $16 million in financing available for the Enighed Pond commercial port and the related Red Hook marine terminal project.
A joint partnership between the St. Thomas firm of Custom Builders and the Pennsylvania-based American Bridge Co. won the bid to build the Enighed Pond commercial port for $12.8 million. Custom Builders will be in charge of the land-side construction, and American Bridge — which also was awarded the contract for the Crown Bay redevelopment on St. Thomas — will carry out the marine work. Liburd and David said that local contractors should get a piece of the economic pie.
In 1985, Port Authority officials anticipated the project would cost about $4 million. John Harding, then VIPA executive director, said at a public meeting that the agency expected to start construction by the end of that year.
However, numerous obstacles stood in its way.
The V.I. government and the Port Authority wrangled over ownership of the land. The Legislature decided in favor of the Port Authority. Once that was resolved, VIPA secured the required Coastal Zone Management permit, which subsequently was extended several times. The agency also had to secure a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit, which took several years. That permit is good through Nov. 3, 2004.
The commercial port is intended to reduce traffic congestion in Cruz Bay, particularly in the Creek area. Currently, all cargo comes in through the Creek. When the new commercial port is completed, all cargo activities will shift to Enighed Pond.
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