March 21, 2003 – The most recent in a series of dates announced by the Planning and Natural Resources Department for closing the Frederiksted pier for renovations appears to be yet another false alarm to fishermen who launch from the pier, according to the president of the Fish Advisory Council, Robert McAuliffe.
DPNR issued a statement on Friday saying the pier would be closed from Thursday, March 20, to Thursday, May 8. As of Friday afternoon, McAuliffe said, no work had started, and the pier remained open.
"They've been putting that notice out for three months that they're closing the pier, but the contractor hasn't moved forward," McAuliffe said. He said that as far as he knows, equipment necessary to begin construction had not arrived, and "it looks like another couple months' delay."
The entire pier project was supposed to have been completed by March 15, he said, adding with irony that "it doesn't look like they're going to make the deadline."
The pier suffered damage in Hurricane Hugo in 1989 that has been compounded in several other major hurricanes since then. Fishermen in a meeting with several senators last December complained that DPNR had found no alternative site for them to launch their boats, once the work does begin.
When the project was first announced, the plan was to shut down one side of the pier and open a previously unused area for the launching of boats. But because the construction site could present a hazard, DPNR officials said, that plan was scrapped.
"They're saying the entire facility will be shut down and cannot be used for 60 days, and we all know it will be longer than that," McAuliffe said at the December meeting. "You're going to put these people out of business for three or four months by not following the original bid. The fishermen are dumbfounded."
The situation since then has not changed, he said Friday. "They haven't relocated them anywhere," he said, and if and when the facility is closed, fishermen with equipment not big enough to launch from other sites will be in trouble.
A nearby launching location was identified, but McAuliffe said DPNR officials nixed that idea, too, saying the permitting process would take too long.
Renovation of the pier is to include:
– Removal of the existing pier remnants and reconstruction of a concrete pier that can withstand hurricanes.
– Removal of the north and south slab ramps and reconstruction of a ramp encompassing both the north and south sides.
– Installation of adequate lighting.
– Installation of buoys to mark the no-swimming area adjacent to the facility.
The renovation is being funded through a grant from the Department of the Interior, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Sport Fish Restoration Program's V.I. Boat Access Project.
Planning and Natural Resources Commissioner Dean Plaskett was unavailable for comment Friday afternoon.

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