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PANEL OKS ELECTRICAL LINK TO PRIVATE ISLAND

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March 24, 2003 – The Senate Planning and Environmental Protection Committee approved one Coastal Zone Management permit Monday and postponed voting on another.
The postponement was of action on a major CZM permit sought by Red Hook Marina Inc. of St. Thomas, a long-standing business run by Per and Lynn Dohm.
Although the Dohms had the full sympathy of the committee, the vote was postponed until top CZM officials could testify. Neither Janice Hodge, the agency's director, nor Julita DeLeon, its attorney, was present Monday.
Manny Ramos of the Planning and Natural Resources Department testified in the Dohms' behalf. However Yvonne Tharpes, legislative legal counsel, said the permit could be legally deficient and required DeLeon's review. Tharpes and several senators raised questions concerning the fee structure in the permit.
The permit is for continued use of an existing 216-foot dock and 10,000 square feet of submerged land as mooring area, plus the replacement of 22 pilings and continued occupancy of parcel 100-1 Estate Nazareth (0.9 acre), including a small one-story building and a shed.
The Dohm family business is a mainstay of the Red Hook area. Started in 1949, it is likely the East End's oldest enterprise. Several committee members expressed regret at the postponement, indicating they would vote to approve the permit as soon as the legal questions are cleared up. Sen. Almando "Rocky" Liburd, a St. John resident, recalled how he had "grown up" with the Dohms' business, commuting to St. John. He said it was "part of my childhood."
The committee chair, Sen. Louis Hill, showed videos of the area depicting cleanup and beautification improvements the Dohms have made.
Per Dohm, under questioning from senators, said his water taxi business has always enjoyed a "great working relationship" with land taxi associations and the ferry services, which it complements. The establishment is an integral part of the East End community, always providing what Lynn Dohm called "a rest spot for weary commuters and travelers," selling food and drinks, making repairs to boats, and providing transportation, if needed.
Conducting his first committee hearing on St. Thomas, Hill began by calling for a moment of silent prayer for the fighting forces in Iraq.
The CZM permit the committee did approve is a minor one for the Water and Power Authority to lay an underwater fiber-optic cable from Red Hook to Little St. James. The island is owned by Jeffrey Epstein, who was represented by attorney Paul Hoffman.
Gregory Rhymer, WAPA environmental affairs manager, said LSJ LLC, the title owner to Little St. James, had provided an environmental assessment report prepared by Bioimpact Inc of St. Croix. Amy Dempsey of Bioimpact explained what the installation will entail, showing a video of the areas involved. She said the installation will not harm any existing coral, as it will avoid the coral communities around Cabrita Point, Great St. James, Whelk Rocks and Little St. James.
Under questioning by committee members, Dempsey explained step by step how the cable will be laid to avoid environmental damage.
Rhymer said what is to be installed is a three-core copper conductor cable rated at 15 KV that will run parallel to the existing electrical submarine cable line from Red Hook Point to St. John. The 18,000 feet of cable will be routed out to a depth of 100 feet off St. Thomas, Rhymer said. On Little St. James, it will connect with an existing inland power system.
The installation, Rhymer said, "not only will allow WAPA to bring on line a new customer, but makes it possible for it to provide future similar services to other locations outside it usual distribution areas, thereby increasing commerce and its prosperity."
Rhymer also said the cable will "greatly reduce shipments of fuel" now needed for electricity production using a generator on the small island.
LSJ LLC will bear the full cost of the cable, permitting, installation, interconnection and termination, Rhymer said.
The committee unanimously approved the permit. All seven committee members were present — Sens. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg, Carlton Dowe, Roosevelt David, Hill, Liburd, Shawn-Michael Malone and Ronald Russell.

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