June 22, 2001 – The U.S. Commerce Department has approved a $1.5 million grant to the V.I. Port Authority for the construction of a new pier, passenger ferry dock, roll on/roll off cargo area and parking lot at Red Hook.
Delegate Donna Christian Christensen announced the grant in a brief release late Friday afternoon that provided no elaboration.
A Government House release issued on June 7 said Gov. Charles W. Turnbull had secured an agreement between the Public Finance Authority, whose board he chairs as governor, and the Port Authority on funding for the new Red Hook marine terminal as well as the long-awaited Enighed Pond cargo facility on St. John. It said the agreement would expedite the start of construction on both projects.
The agreement provides for the PFA to advance funding to the Port Authority in the form of a bridge loan, with the money to be reimbursed from a federal highway funds bond issue.
The overall proceeds from the bonds, known as GARVEE bonds, will be used to fund a number of projects authorized by the 23rd Legislature. "GARVEE" stands for Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicle. The bonds are backed by future annual grants from the Federal Highway Administration. According to government officials, the territory has been receiving about $12 million a year in such federal transportation funds.
GARVEE bonds represent a way for jurisdictions to access funding without incurring more debt, by leveraging funds available through the federal Transportation Efficiency Act for the 21st Century, known as TEA-21. The Public Finance Authority would issue the bonds.
Under the FHA rules, "these bonds cannot be issued until all the projects to be funded are ready for construction," the June 7 Government House release stated, and for this reason it was expected that the bonds would not be floated until "late in the current year." Earlier, officials had said the bond issue would occur in September.
The June 7 release cited Amadeo Francis, PFA director of administration, as saying the state of planning was sufficiently far along that the Port Authority could begin construction work "within the next two to three months."
The Enighed Pond and Red Hook upgrades have long been seen as a tandem project, and it was not immediately clear why the Commerce Department grant is for the St. Thomas work only.
The volume of passenger, vehicular and cargo traffic between Red Hook and Cruz Bay has increased sharply in recent years, and no one disputes the need for expanded facilities on both islands.
Port Authority planner Darlin Brin said in January of this year that the agency could begin accepting bids on the $16 million Enighed Pond project within three months. He said the Port Authority had secured permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Coastal Zone Management Commission, but still had to go through a federal environmental review.
Some 16 months ago, Port Authority executive director Gordon Finch said the agency was ready to put up its half of the funding for the bi-island project. There was talk at that time of using a part of the proceeds from the anticipated sale of an 80 percent interest in the Water and Power Authority to Southern Energy for the Enighed project.


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