Oct. 25, 2004 Johnson Bay boaters can sit tight for the time being, Planning and Natural Resources Commissioner Dean C. Plaskett said via telephone at a meeting Monday of Coral Bay area boaters.
Sen. Almando "Rocky" Liburd had agreed to meet with the boaters. He said that instead of just listening to their concerns, he decided to put them in touch with Plaskett. The commissioner made remarks and listened to questions through a cell phone set down on a table in front of a microphone.
Plaskett told the two dozen boaters and other residents gathered at the M&M Donkey Diner in Coral Bay that he would have an ad hoc boater's committee up and running by the end of the week.
He said those committee members will help develop a plan on where to relocate the Johnson Bay boaters.
Dave Dostall asked Plaskett what will happen if a study shows that Johnson Bay is the best place for boaters to moor.
"We'll be the first to admit it," he said.
Last winter DPNR announced that the Johnson Bay boaters would have to relocate. However, the boaters said repeatedly that they had nowhere to go since Coral Harbor is already overcrowded. (See "Boat Owners Challenging Order to Leave Johnson Bay").
About a half-dozen people live aboard in Johnson Bay, a small arm in Coral Harbor. A summer study by the boater's group, The Coral Bay Association for Marine Planning, showed that a total of 44 boats are moored in the area. The study also showed 122 boats are moored in Coral Harbor's main anchorage. Of that number, between a dozen and 20 are home to live-aboard families.
Plaskett said the boaters had to move for ecological reasons. However, boaters at the Monday meeting pointed out that once they are gone, transient boaters will move in. They said their anchors will do more damage to the sea grass beds than the moored boats could ever do.
"I don't foresee big boats coming in," Plaskett said as the boaters laughed at his contention that a vacant bay would remain that way for long.
Plaskett promised enforcement to keep them out.
Lucia Francis, DPNR enforcement chief, said at the March meeting and a subsequent one in August that the ad hoc committee was coming.
(See "DPNR Meeting with Boaters to Address Johnson Bay").
At the March meeting, numerous people volunteered to serve. The list included many people at the Monday meeting. Although Plaskett initially said he was under the impression that those selected to serve had been notified, an informal poll indicated none at the meeting had received any notice.
Francis was not at the Monday meeting.
After Angela Ebner said she feared that those picked would be people who would "rubber stamp" DPNR's decisions, Liburd asked for a list of key people to serve on the ad hoc committee.
Plaskett also said that he had contacted several businesses that operate pump-out boats. While rules prohibit dumping sewage directly into the harbor, boaters are faced with a long trek to St. Thomas to the closest pump-out station or a sail to beyond the three-mile limit. Boaters have said these are not feasible options.
Several boaters said after the meeting that they were pleased with the outcome.
"DPNR backpedaled a little bit. I feel reassured that I won't have to move out immediately," Adin Kauffman said.
Dostall said that dialogue and communication can solve problems.
"This is the first time we've ever talked to Commissioner Plaskett the person who's in charge," he said.
Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.
Publisher's note : Like the St. John Source now? Find out how you can love us twice as much — and show your support for the islands' free and independent news voice.. click here.