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HomeNewsLocal newsCitizens Concerned about Pond Bay Shoreline Cleanup

Citizens Concerned about Pond Bay Shoreline Cleanup

Citizens on St. John voiced concerns this week about the Pond Bay shoreline cleanup that’s taking place in Estate Chocolate Hole.  

Legacy Development is in the process of cleaning up the site’s buildings and beach, which were abandoned in late 2010. To clean the beach, the company is removing overgrown plants, rocks, trash and other debris that have accumulated from the years of neglect.

A concerned citizen who wishes to remain anonymous notified The Source that a small excavator machine with tracks was being used on the property’s beach to move debris and sand.

The anonymous source said the beach cleanup work has exposed tree roots and there’s been scraping along the water’s edge to the point that gravel is now exposed.

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To verify the legality of the beach cleanup methods, a Source reporter reviewed the maintenance authorization agreement the company has with the Division of Coastal Zone Management and spoke with the division’s director, Jean-Pierre Oriol. 

A Source reporter visited the property on Thursday and did not find a CZM permit posted, which is typically required by law.

Legacy Development was not required to apply for a permit, since the company is only cleaning the site, which is classified as maintenance, Oriol said. No major modifications or expansions are being made to the structures on the property.

Oriol confirmed that a couple of complaints about the cleanup have been made this week directly to the V.I. Department of Planning and Natural Resources, which houses the CZM division.

In response, DPNR employees visited the site twice this week to verify that it’s in compliance with the maintenance authorization that was approved in August. The employees reported no wrongdoing on the part of Legacy Development.

According to Oriol, traditional excavators with metal tracks cause more damage to beaches and remove material like sand unintentionally, but that the excavator tracks approved for use on the Pond Bay shoreline are made of rubber. This minimizes impacts on the beach and makes the machinery more maneuverable, Oriol said.

“Sometimes an excavator is needed to remove big debris,” Oriol stated.

DPNR media relations coordinator Jamal Nielsen verified that machinery has always been allowed on the territory’s beach if its use is approved.

In the past, DPNR did not permit tracked vehicles on beaches, but after learning more about how some tracks cause minimal impact, the department is now allowing small, rubber-tracked vehicles to assist with beach cleaning.

Many citizens are likely unaware of this policy change and were alarmed when they saw the excavator on the property’s beach.

Oriol said that the company Beachy Clean, which offers beach cleaning services, approached CZM a couple years ago about using rubber-tracked machinery when sargassum seaweed was building up on the territory’s beaches at unusually high amounts. Rubber-tracked machinery has been used to clean seaweed and debris from a number of beaches on the east end of St. Thomas.

The Source reviewed the maintenance authorization with Legacy Development and found DPNR is allowing the use of the excavator on the beach for three main purposes:

–           to move seemingly abandoned boats and boat parts;

–           to remove weedy material and overgrown bush including invasive species, but not sea grape and maho trees;

–           and to complete some minimal scraping to remove rocks from the sand that have built up but in a way that minimally disturbs sand.

Oriol said Legacy will sift through the sand and rock piles its made in an effort to return some of that sand to the beach but that its composition is very rocky and some beach nourishment might be needed. At this point, the company has not requested to bring in any sand from the outside to nourish the beach.

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