July 26, 2005 – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had three engineers in Christiansted last week looking at a flood-control project for the town.
Luis Perez, senior project manager out of Jacksonville, Fla., said the project would focus on storm drainage in three blocks of King's Cross Street, a site of flooding during heavy rains. He said a final decision on whether the Corps would fund the project would be made at the end of this year.
While Perez was on island, Delegate Donna M. Christensen met with him to speed up the process on the Army Corps permit needed for dredging at the Ann E. Abramson pier in Frederiksted so cruise ships can be accommodated this tourist season.
Perez said Monday that after talking with Christensen, he talked to the project manager in Puerto Rico, Jose Rosario, and also with David Mapp from the V.I. Port Authority to find out why the process seemed stalled. Perez said he heard different stories from each side but managed to get the two sides talking to each other. He said he is now confident the project will move forward at a quicker pace.
Rosario on Monday said he could not say when a decision would be made on the permit. He added that it was the Corps' opinion that the project would have minimal effect on fish and sea vegetation in the area.
He said letters had been sent out Friday responding to groups, individuals and agencies that raised environmental concerns about the project. The Corps will wait at least 15 days to get responses from those letters before issuing the permit.
Perez said he understands the importance of the project to Virgin Islanders who want to see cruise ships back in Frederiksted.
Christensen said in a press release, "This project is of the utmost importance to the people of St. Croix, especially our business sector who are seeking relief from bleak economic conditions. Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines have a real interest in bunkering here on St. Croix and would like to add St. Croix as a destination on its upcoming calendar. It is therefore imperative that this project gets started."
The St. Croix Coastal Zone Management committee gave its approval to the dredging project last April.
Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines requested the dredging in November 2004 so large ships can dock in Frederiksted.
Christensen also said in her release, "I will continue to use the full resources of my office to support the V.I. Port Authority to ensure that this project is a success."
Another project reportedly stalled on St. Croix through lack of a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers is Phase 2 of the boardwalk in Christiansted. This section of the boardwalk will run from downtown to Gallows Bay.
Keith Richards, the governor's assistant for capital projects, said in June that the project needed a permit and that he hoped it would be issued after a site visit from the Corps.
Perez said he did not look at that project when he was in Christiansted. The Corps' project manager for Phase 2 of the boardwalk refused to make any comment, referring inquiries to the public relations office of the Corps. The public relations officer was scheduled to be out of her office all this week.
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