March 28, 2006 – The familiar landscape of the Frederiksted waterfront was interrupted Monday by a 30-foot crane parked on a barge alongside the Ann E. Abramson pier. The crane will be used to begin dredging the south and north sides of the pier to accommodate larger cruise vessels.
Gordon Finch, former VI Port Authority executive director, now a consultant with the authority visited the site Monday and was pleased with the progress.
"They have been true to their word," Finch said of the contractors, V. I. Cement and Paving. "We have every confidence that they will do the work and do it on time."
The contractors have until June 30 to complete the project. Dredging would include both the north and south sides of the pier, removing 25,000 cubic yards of sand and rubble on the north side and 22,000 cubic yards on the south side, to a width of 200 feet on each side.
A team of four divers from Cruzan Divers were on the dock monitoring one of their own who was underwater using a hydraulic saw to remove old pier pilings. A steady stream of bubbles a few feet off the north side of the pier marked the spot where the diver worked in a depth of more than 35 feet. A communication box kept the divers on the dock in constant contact with the diver under the sea. The divers, Eddy Lavarini; Gary Bracken; David Holcomb and Ken Schull took turns during the day removing the piles.
"Working at this depth, the divers need to be rotated every 3 to 4 hours," Holcomb said.
The old dock extended 900 feet from the shore while the existing pier, built to the north, is 1,526 feet long. There are approximately 240 pilings which divers will either have to remove or cut to a minimum of one foot below the sea floor. IF they are forced to cut them, divers blow around the base of the pilings to displace the sand and then cut them with a hydrolic saw.
According to Finch, a material barge which will hold the dredged sand will arrive at the pier Wednesday. The sand will be barged to the Gordon Finch Molasses Pier for storage.
In a press release issued Monday, Sen. Neville James, chairperson of the Economic Development, Planning and Environmental Protection committee, said he was encouraged by the progress of the dredging. James said the ongoing work on the pier "increases the confidence of the cruise ship industry and demonstrates our efforts to move forward with what is needed to increase daylight passenger ship visits to St. Croix."
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