Reliance Should Follow Rules Before Plunging Ahead

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Editor:

Your November 5 article on the proposed Calabash Boom housing project casts light on one of the crucial — and once widely ignored — threats facing Coral Bay, and indeed the rest of St. John — muddy storm water runoff. 

Friends of Coral Bay is gratified that U.S. EPA has now made this issue a priority for Coral Bay, and that DPNR seems to be catching on.

Hopefully, the new measures ordered for the Calabash Boom housing project site — which Friends of Coral Bay has been seeking for over a year — will reduce the runoff during construction, and thus avert the short-term devastation of the coral reef that lies just offshore.

Unfortunately, however, when construction is complete, the newly-imposed mitigation requirements will be terminated. Reliance has no plans to control runoff post-construction, i.e., for the decades to come.

Your article overlooked an equally troubling deficiency in the Calabash Boom project plans — controlling sewage pollution. Reliance plans to partially treat the toilet waste of the planned 278 residents and then use the effluent for irrigation. According to our experts, at least half will flow directly into the bay. This will do great harm to the coral reef as well the undersea grasses on which sea turtles now thrive.

The other unanswered question is, “What will the residents have to drink?” The limited well-water obtainable at the site is seven times saltier that federal drinking water limits; the seawater is several times saltier than that. Yet Reliance has denied that it plans to employ desalination technology (for fear that it will need to seek an Army Corps permit?). For how long can Reliance stay mum on this crucial question?

This leads us to the over-arching problem facing Reliance — permits. What prevents Reliance from resuming construction of the project is not just the long-awaited ruling from the Board of Land Use Appeals, but also receipt of the four other permits that are required by V.I. law.

In the V.I., developers may not build first and ask questions later. Rather, according to the plain language of the Coastal Zone Management Act — and the terms of Reliance’s CZM Permit — they must get all required permits first.

All agree that more affordable housing is needed on St. John. Friends of Coral Bay has never and does not oppose its creation in Calabash Boom. Our concern from the beginning has been the impact on the environment of a development of this density so close to the bay. All we are asking is that Reliance follow the rules and obtain the permits required by law before plunging ahead.

Jim Dougherty, Friends of Coral Bay