Sept. 5, 2001 – The recently completed draft of a Fish Bay Watershed Management Plan will serve as a model for developing areas across the territory, according to Bill Rohring, a geographical information system planner at the Planning and Natural Resources Department.
"We will do it as slowly as possible to try and get as many people on board as possible," he said.
The plan was developed over the last three years as a way to protect Fish Bay, a large bay that receives runoff from unpaved roads and driveways located on the hillsides above. The sedimentation smothers the coral, which impacts fish habitat.
Rohring said Fish Bay was selected for the plan because scientists from various agencies already were studying the sediment problem, the area was relatively unpolluted, and many homeowners in the area were interested in solving the problem.
Development began in the area several decades ago when a contractor subdivided the land into homesites and cut roads. Elissa Runyon, president of the Fish Bay Homeowners Association, said there are about 225 lots in the area and about one-third of them have houses.
There is paving on less than half of the 10 miles of roads in the area, and the Watershed Management Plan indicates that most driveways remain unpaved. However, Runyon said, the number of homeowners who are paving their driveways is on the upswing.
The plan requires residents to develop a long-term Comprehensive Road Stabilization Plan for the unpaved roads. It also calls for installation of a stormwater drainage and treatment system as well as paving. Roads will be prioritized and as funding becomes available, work will proceed. While some grant money will be available, the project also will cost homeowners money.
"Our owners in general are not particularly enamored with the idea of spending a lot of money," Runyon said. She said that about 90 percent of the homeowners association annual dues of $450 goes toward road improvements.
She said residents disagree on paving priorities. Some want to pave Marina Drive, the main road through the area, first because it gets the most traffic. It is flat and contributes little to the sedimentation problem but it's rough going for motorists. Others want to pave roads up in the hills first because runoff from those areas impacts Fish Bay.
Rohring said the homeowners association Runyon heads and the other one in the Fish Bay area can apply for federal grants. "For a lot of federal grants, they will have to put in equity," he said, but he noted that the equity could be in the form of donated labor.
The plan also calls for all homeowners to pave their driveways and install gutters, box culverts and other storm drainage systems within five years of the plan's adoption. Anyone failing to comply would face a fine. "It's one thing to tell people to do something, but that's big bucks," Fish Bay resident Beverly Biziewski said, noting that her driveway is paved.
The plan is available for review at the St. John Administrator's office and the Elaine Ione Sprauve Library, both in Cruz Bay, as well as the Coastal Zone Management office located at Cyril E. King Airport in St. Thomas.
No date has been set to implement the plan, which is now in draft form. Rohring said if it is determined that changes are necessary, they will be made.


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