Aug. 23, 2001 – While the territory's Planning and Natural Resources Department previously controlled hurricane anchoring activities in St. John's Hurricane Hole, that responsibility now belongs to the V.I. National Park, according to park planner Jim Owens.
Although regulations have not been finalized, Hurricane Hole is now part of the V.I. Coral Reef National Monument. As a result, Owens said, this is the last hurricane season that random anchoring will be allowed in Hurricane Hole.
"We're converting from do-it-yourself mooring," he said.
The National Park Service, which oversees activities in the national monument, plans to install hurricane mooring systems similar to the ones used at Tortola's Paraquita Bay and St. Martin's Simpson Bay Lagoon. Work is expected to begin after this hurricane season ends on Nov. 30, Owens said.
Rafe Boulon, the park's chief of environmental protection, said the hurricane moorings will initially be installed in Princess Bay and Borck Creek, which are the innermost fingers of Hurricane Hole. As funding permits, he said, such systems also will go into Otter Creek and Water Creek, which are smaller fingers to the right as one enters Hurricane Hole.
The hurricane mooring system consists of two heavy chains laid about 100 feet apart and attached to the ocean floor with sand screws about every 20 feet along their length. To use them, boat crew members will dive down to secure their own chains or lines to the heavy chains. The bow of a vessel will be affixed to one length of chain and the stern to the other.
Boulon said grants totaling about $100,000 from the Friends of the V.I. National Park and from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will pay for the initial installations. Under monument regulations, he said, no anchoring will be allowed in Hurricane Hole at any time of year.
However, boaters will be able to use the hurricane mooring system throughout the year. To make it easier in fair weather, he said, the National Park Service may attach lines with floating mooring buoys to the hurricane chains. Boater would be able to tie up to the buoys without having to dive down to access the chain.
Should all of Hurricane Hole's fingers not have hurricane mooring systems installed by next hurricane season, Boulon said, anchoring will be permitted when a storm threatens. "We will not do anything to jeopardize people's boats or safety," he said, "but we will encourage them to use the hurricane moorings."
In preparation for the hurricane mooring installation, boaters who have installed sand screws to create secure moorings in Hurricane Hole will be required to remove them once hurricane season. Boaters are allowed to leave their ground tackle in place through Nov. 30 but must label it with name, telephone number and boat registration number. If they fail to do so, park staff will remove the ground tackle.
While boaters may set up their ground tackle at any time now, they cannot take their boats into Hurricane Hole until five days before a storm is projected to strike. They must leave within two days after such a storm passes.
The hurricane mooring system will protect the ocean floor from anchor damage, but the mangroves that fringe the edges remain under siege, Boulon said. Many of the trees have huge gouges where boaters have tied up. "If we lose these mangroves, we lose what makes Hurricane Hole special," he said.
To prevent further damage, the National Park Service does not allow boaters to tie up to the mangroves in either Hurricane Hole or Mary's Creek, located west of Leinster Bay.
Another environmental problem, Boulon said, is that some boaters apparently don't take their trash with them when they leave Hurricane Hole. He said the fingers of the inlet are lined with what appears to be debris, including oil filters, left behind by boaters.
Repeated telephone requests to the Planning and Natural Resources Department requesting copies of local hurricane rules and regulations received no response.


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