Save Salt River and Bioluminescent Bay!
Save Salt River
And Bioluminescent Bay
Citizens of St. Croix: the Park Service wants to take away your public park, turn it over for private use, and allow it to be destroyed forever by a major development plan that would result in the complete obliteration of the bioluminescence of Bioluminescent Bay.
Here are 22 Reasons to Oppose the MREC development
1. The acquisition of the land was dishonest: NPS and DPNR told the previous private owners that the land and waterway could NEVER be developed. They drove them into bankruptcy, took their land in foreclosure, and now THEY want to DEVELOP the land and the waterway!
2. The categorization of this land as suitable for development is dishonest: 26,000sf of rubble on the end of the peninsula has become the scapegoat for building 150,000 sq of new construction on the hillside of virgin soil. They want us to believe that this development is a “restorative act” that will re-establish “the area to more natural topographical conditions,” which is simply ludicrous.
3. All dredging, bulkhead introduction, mangrove destruction, shoreline modification, and saltwater pond modification of Salt River Bay have been prohibited by DPNR, but NPS does not think it should be subject to the same rules as everyone else for what is best for the Bay.
4. Access to the site would require the introduction of a road through the Triton Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, violating the agreement of the preserve.
5. It is against public law 102-247 for public park land to be handed over to universities to take control of and manage and yet this is exactly what the MREC plan proposes. This is the equivalent to renting out our national treasure to the highest bidder.
6. Development will endanger the cultural and historical legacy of the land and jeopardize its further protection. Diminished integrity of the land could lead to the declassification of the status of Columbus Landing National Historic Landmark, Cape of Arrows (which is eligible for listing on the National Register and inclusion in an expanded National Historic Landmark designation), and the classification of the site as a National Natural Landmark.
7. The development of the land will ruin the historically significant view that should be protected. Public Law 102-247 section 104(b): Any proposed construction within the line of sight of the Columbus Landing National Historic Landmark would negatively impact the vistas and landscapes. The Ceremonial Ball Court, village sites, and burial grounds are sensitive and sacred religious areas. . . Visitors cannot be inspired if they are distributed by a background of cluttered vistas and landscapes. . . The size of the proposed complex will destroy the viewshed forever, and the visitors’ experience will be immeasurable disturbed”
8. The Environmental Assessment for the project is no longer valid because the scale and scope of the project has snowballed from two buildings, five dorm rooms, and one doc facility to eleven buildings, ten dorm rooms, and a tri-plex of dock facilities.
9. Save the bioluminescence of Bioluminescent Bay. It’s estimated that there are only 6 or 7 places like this in the entire world! In addition to dredging, bulkhead instillation, and mangrove destruction, they want to pump up to 300 gallons a minute of water out of the bay for holding tanks.
10. Save the 25 endangered animals. Where is the biological evaluation detailing the potential harm this project would have on the animals who call Salt Rive home?
11. Save the endangered sea turtles. There will be constant boat traffic in and out of the bay, disrupting turtle mating areas and destroying their sea grass grazing areas.
12. Save the birds: nesting grounds for over 26 species of birds, more than half of all birds who breed on St. Croix!
13. Save the fish nursery that is vital to maintaining the already dwindling stock of fish for the island. They want to dredge the nursery in Bio Bay to make room for a pier and moorings to accommodate six or more large boats.
14. Save the reefs and delicate marine estuary. DPS just tried to tell us that in order to save the reef on the East side of Buck Island snorkeling should be prohibited, now they are telling us that in order to save the reef at Salt River we should introduce 120 tanks worth of scuba diving a day! Where is the logic in this?
15. Save the endangered mangroves. The Bay has the largest remaining mangrove forest in the territory. With more than 50 percent of the mangroves of St. Croix now destroyed through human impact, the mangroves of Salt River Bay estuary represent an irreplaceable natural resource.
16. Save our green space. The ideals of building green and reducing our carbon footprint are not met when we pave over a national treasure to accommodate 150,000sf of development.
17. Save Hemer’s Peninsula next to Bioluminescent Bay from the horror of become a parking lot.
18. NPS is trying to steal Salt River away from the public. They think one poorly attended invitational meeting in 2006 is all the warning/announcement the public deserves when it comes to taking away and destroying the national treasure that is Salt River. We need to show them that the people of St. Croix will not be so easily manipulated and deceived. They have misrepresented their plan, tried to appease our worries by saying it was all just hypothetical, all the while pressing forward to make it a reality before the people had the chance to object.
19. Things like dorm rooms and massive auditoriums belong on college campuses, not the ecological gem that is Salt River Bay. One of the basic principles of responsible field research is to respect and protect the natural integrity of the field. We should teach future generations to respect our natural treasures, not to turn them into destination education resorts. There is more than enough room for this facility at UVI. It is disrespectful to the land and the people of St. Croix to squander Salt River.
20. With only 40 undergraduate and 12 graduate students, how is this facility going to serve the needs of three mainland universities in addition to our own? How can enrollment numbers like these justify the initial 60 million dollar investment, let alone keep the complex financially afloat for years to come?
21. We already have two abandoned and decaying research facilities that were dedicated to research at Salt River, namely the Fairleigh Dickinson West Indies Laboratory for Underwater Research and the J. Falle Marine Research Station. We need to sustain that which we already have instead of littering our island with derelict building and building new.
22. Building such a huge complex this close to the ocean and flood plain places undue strain on the already over-extended disaster relief resources of our island and it threatens one of our dearest places with the fate of becoming an eye sore for generations to come in the unfortunate case that it is ravaged by a hurricane.
In the words of archeologist John Ehrenhard, “Salt River Bay is at its final crossroads. . . Present urban development is the first serious threat to the ecosystem and its precious cultural cargo. . . it is also the last threat because if the juggernaut of development cannot be stopped there will be no second chance—a bulldozer can destroy in 5 minutes what it takes mankind 500 years to produce” (EA, p.295).
We Cannot Afford to Lose this National Treasure.
Once it’s Gone, it’s Gone Forever.
To Find out more or what you can do to help, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Why don't the US Virgin Islands promote their biobays like PR does? How many of those little critters that glow are in Salt River?
Does UVI have other land they can use? Why are they not using the lawn leading to the main buildings?
The salt pond probably isn't a good idea, but it helps if you offer,a suitable alternative.
Oh man, I HOPE that doesn't happen. Devastating... Especially to nature lovers like myself. I was just talking last night about the bay and the kayak trip we took in there at night with sea thru. It was amazing! It would be a shame to lose it.
*** The views and opinions expressed in my posts are soley those of A&A2VI and other like minded islanders. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the majority or any/all contributors to this site. Have a GREAT DAY!
"turn it over for private use"....guess i should be careful what i say ,but i remember about 6 years ago a very emphatic push by a real estate co.owner and 1 of the current candidates running for delegate to congress to purchase the salt river marina area. at the time it was owned by a man who resided in italy,and i believe it still is. at the time, the problem with the purchase involved incredible "environmentally,expensive " issues to allow it to become a private development. i pray my memories are not about the same purchase....it reeks a little like moving a road from cane bay which allows public access. i am extremely in favor of major resort developments on stx,but not 1 financially astute individual in owning all the prime waterfront land on stx.
Every single point aham outlines above is demonstrably false.
The above poster and their colleagues are residents of the neighboring Judith's Fancy development and are launching a Not-In-My-Back-Yard campaign to spread misinformation about the project and discourage one of the best investments in our island's future that has yet been made.
Anyone who is curious or concerned about the MREC project is strongly encouraged to come to the meetings (or schedule your own) and learn the facts and reach your own conclusions.
MS411: Why don’t they promote the Bio Bay? That is the million dollar question. The truth of the matter is that they wish it did not exist because it is inconvenient to their development plans. Amazingly, the environmental assessment they did on the area never even mentions the word “bioluminescence” and the “green building plan” they put out never acknowledges the Bio Bay, let alone does it assume responsibility for destroying it.
Are there other places to build this facility, absolutely! Imagine what the world would be like if we built a collage campus right in the center of every area that warranted field research?! Dorm rooms in the Grand Canyon, etc. The thought is absurd, but the problem is that they think they can get away with it here!
Lily: The private use would be the vast majority of the 74 eastern acres of Salt River and what was the Bio Bay. It would be turned over to a consortium of universities (Rutgers, The University of North Carolina Wilmington, South Carolina, and UVI). The only way the residents of St. Croix or the tourists, or the school children would have access to the area would be on one of three guided tours a week.
Alana: We are working on a petition and should have one ready to sign shortly. Thanks!
Stxrocks: The NC has been informed, but so far we have not heard a word back from them. I would think that a lot of people would be all over this, but there has been a strange and sad demurring to the NPS, no matter how crazy the project.
I know that St. Croix is struggling horribly economically and I imagine it will probably get worse before it gets better, but developing our National Natural treasures is not the way to go. I know of no other project like this one in the history of the NPS and I feel certain that it would never pass on the mainland and it would be laughed out of Hawaii as utterly absurd. The people in HI defend their land adamantly.
The whole project reeks of colonialism in my opinion. They are preying on our economic weakness, lack of organization, and easy-going ways. These mainland universities get to create a big satellite education destination resort on some of our most precious land and close us out. Not only are they taking over our land, they are taking the liberty of destroying it forever in the process. How responsible is a “marine research facility” that destroys one of the only 6 Bioluminescent Bays in the world before it even opens? How can we trust the motivations and ethics of such a facility? In my opinion they don’t want to drop 60 million to have a research facility, the real drive is to have it here in the middle of our ecological gem.
Reason #23: Salt River may be the most important archeological site in the Caribbean. In addition to being the only site in the US where Columbus’ party touched foot on what is now U.S. Territory, Salt River Bay also hosts numerous archeological sites attributable to different tribes of Caribbean Indians. For instance: “On the bay’s east side, an Amerindian burial ground, in use between A.D. 660 and 1015, is located adjacent to Cabo de las Flechas, and ‘may be the most significant find of this nature in the Caribbean’ (NPS, 1990).”
12. Save the birds: nesting grounds for over 26 species of birds, more than half of all birds who breed on St. Croix!
Least Terns nest on the land on the east side of the Salt River cut, near the ocean. They are there in May/June.
15. Mangroves, I have planted Mangroves with the SEA program.
23. There are indian relics
The Feds are out of control:
- EPA shutting down Hovensa
- trying to keep us off of Buck Island
- developing Salt River instead of rebuilding Farleigh Dickinson site
.....St. Croix is struggling horribly economically and I imagine it will probably get worse before it gets better, but developing our National Natural treasures is not the way to go. I know of no other project like this one in the history of the NPS....
Pimping our most valuable resources for a quick fox of cash....
This would not happen if not given Government sanction.
Many island locations are taking care to preserve their natural beauty and their attractions to enhance their tourism products as well as for the enjoyment of those living there.
Why we do not is something best asked of our Senators and Governor as well as the Delegate.
Here's an interesting link for STT Source: http://stthomassource.com/content/news/local-news/2012/10/11/local-trees-are-top-agenda-upcoming-conference
Maybe they could be of help Aham?
I have read numerous historical and archaeological documents about Salt River, as well as, spent dozens of hours kayaking "bio" and SR bay and hiking the property on both sides. My friends and family can attest to my obsession.
Here's what I know:
1. The bay on the east side of SR is man-made, the product of several defunct dev projects. Old historical maps confirm this. "Bio" bay is a very recent name used by some kayakers and at least two local businesses. The bio algae can be seen elsewhere in the SR Bay. Indeed, I've seen them on night dives at FSted Pier.
2. Several digs found no significant archaeo finds on the east side of SR Bay, and the area in question has been bulldozed several times in the past 50 years in prep for projects that failed. This is the area that the university led research facility was approved. The significant cultural areas are across on the west side of SR, half a mile across.
3. The Indies/University campus the OP cites is 10 miles away above Teague Bsy and was blown apart by Hugo.
4. "Bio" bay is very small compared to the rest of SR Bay. The proposed facility will no close it, just put a dock in it for research facilities.
5. The terns do not use the mangroves at Bio Bay. Indeed, having extensively lakes the bays, I have often asked local experts "where are the birds and other fauna?" It's surprisingly empty.
6. I have talked with local fisherman and they lament the collapse of fish pop in the bay. The bay has problems which a NPS and Univ Research Center could seriously bring attention to.
7. The presence of the research facility would bring much needed attention to the Columbus Landing side of the bay, including the archaeo sites now covered by fill and the amazing but overgrown and eroding 400 yr old, 50 ft high, Fort Sale on the western point of SR Bay. Might even bring jobs, investment, and tourists.
8. SR Bay was the site of the longest running underwater research Habitat projects in history. ...the lab itself now resting in the NOAA museum in DC. It was staffed by researchers and students from two of the universities now part of this new research facility. Sacrificing a few mangroves to expand fish and reef research is a worthy sacrifice. (If you really care about mangroves then you should ask the VI govt to restore the acres of them which USED to exist around the landfill and refinery.
9. And last but not least... "Bio" bay is silting in. The narrow entrance is very shallow and likely on good storm surge from returning to the swamp it used to be before several failed dev projects dredged it.
The st Croix Archaeo Society website contains a collection of reports on SR Bay dating way back. They include old impact studies, dig reports, Columbus and Carib histories, and numerous West Indies Lab reef studies.
Oy, sorry for the typos above. Used my smartphone and my edit privilege timed out.
Wanted to correct some typos and emphasize the "SILT-ING IN" that is happening at the mouth of the bay. Salt River Bay is surprisingly shallow, especially on the eastern side. Indeed, a sailboat sits marooned on a sandbar in the MIDDLE of "Triton" Bay, the name for the eastern half of Salt River Bay because it's shaped like a Triton. A storm surge could easily wreck havoc in there, and have in the past. SRB and the mangroves around it were ravaged by Hugo. Even the canyon floor was scoured.
PROPER development can lead to preservation, and may be exactly what's needed where there is a history of GOVT NEGLIGENCE.
As it stands now, the Bay is drowning in neglect and the Columbus side is trashed by neglect. The "Ball Court" is under the dirt and the stones are in the Danish museum.
When people start quoting PAST comments about the dangers of development at SR, we should remember that those quotes are probably coming from PAST problems with private homeowners building on or near archaeological sites on the Columbus side.
I would also like to point out that Bioluminescent Dinoflagellates ("algae") are not rare or endangered. In fact, they are quite common throughout the oceans. What's rare on STX are the calm conditions in the bay which allow tourists to see them from above water, and where they tend to bloom. Let's not start printing "Save the Dinoflagellates" t-shirts just yet.
And before we start worrying about pumping seawater, please remember where Wapa gets its water.
I suspect SOME of the oppositon is about "roads". The Judith's Fancy HOA has already told the powers that be that they cannot use their private roads for construction traffic. There is, however, a public road that comes down from the adjoining estate.
I think the Bio Bay is possibly one of St Croix's best and most marketable tourist attractions. I don't think anyone is worried about the bioluminescent dinoflagellates, but the inclusion of a dock or marina facility within the bay would also mean overhead lighting. That would make the magical experience of paddling a kayak through the bay on a dark night and watching the glowing swirls and wakes impossible.
We have a world class tourist attraction just waiting to be better utilized. Why screw it up so that a few people can make some money? Let's put the money and effort into some of the other projects in less environmentally delicate locations.
All of the universities involved are non-profits. The aim of this is not to make money but to set up the facilities where world class marine research can be done on STX. The kind of research that is simply not possible or practical on STX at present. That research would benefit local education, local marine resources and the community as a whole.
Neil: Thank you for your knowledgeable information and sharing your passion with us. I totally agree, I know what it is like to feel genuine love for an area, what a privledge it is to experience that connection with nature.
Of course the reason why the bioluminescene is so wonderful in Bio Bay is because the water exchange at the mouth is so restricted. It keeps the nutrient levels extremely high. The MREC projec would require the complete dredging of the bay to make it accessible for a small fleet of boats including a 45 foot dive boat. This dredging activity would increase the water exchange so that the bioluminescene would no longer flourish. In addition to the dredging, the boat traffic would also hurt any chances of the bioluminescence persisting. The pumping out of water was just the final nail in the coffin, to dispell any doubts.
For anyone interested, I found the following links on bioluminescence informative http://www.golden-heron.com/biobay.htm http://biobay.com/cd/articlew/night.htm and http://www.boatingpuertorico.com/parguera/parg02.html
So Neil, in your opinion, what do we do when we have a man-made lagoon that has come along and surprized us with the gift of such spectacular bioluminescence? I feel like we can make a genuine environmental claim on wanting to save the Bio Bay even thought the original formation of the Bay was not natural. I was also wonering whay you thought about the quotation I referenced above in #23 that came from NPS stating that the Eastern side of Salt River might be the most archeologicall significant site in the Caribbean?
Personally I think we should support education, especially marine education and research. I just don't think the price MREC wants us to pay to have it on the Eastern shores is reasonable. We have come too far in our understanding of sustainable practives and the value of Natural landscapes for this proposal to be acceptible.
My position, in a nutshell, is this:
I LOVE St. Croix, both it's land and it's people, and I really do want what is best for the island.
Salt River Bay is . . .
A National Natural Landmark,
A National Historic Landmark,
A wildlife refuge,
A marine sanctuary,
A nationally inventoried critical wetland priority area for protection,
One of the most important archeological sites in the Caribbean,
The Ceremonial Ball Court, village sites, and burial grounds are sensitive and sacred religious areas
“One of the eleven most endangered sites in the United States and Territories” (National Trust for Historical Preservation),
“One of the most significant treasures of natural, cultural, scientific, and recreational resources in the U.S. Virgin Islands” (DPNR).
“The biological lifeboat of the Virgin Islands” (DPNR).
The home to one of only 6 or 7 bioluminescent bays in the world
Basically there is no other way to say THIS LAND IS SUPER IMPORTANT that is not listed above.
And then I think about the MREC and it's plan to build
10 dorm rooms
a 100 person auditorium
an outdoor amplithetre
a dining hall
a machine shop/ boat maintance building
and various other educational and research buildings
a pier and a tri-plec of doc facilities (all on the wetlands within the flood plane)
I'm emotionally overwhelmed when I envision all of this because it seems so very disrespectful. This is precious land. I look at the rubble on the peninsula and I hate it, I want it cleaned up, but then I think about what MREC plans to do with it, which is turn it into a parking lot, and that is even worse. How can we do this to such important land? If ever there were a place to fight for, it seems to me this is the place. God knows, people have gone to much greater extremes to protect much, much less. I hear people talk about "Native Rights" and I think this is the sort of thing they should be fighing for. This is the people's land. It's a big part of what makes us rich as a society.
OK, soap box put away, going to bed, goodnight.
I would think one would be better served by contacting Fish & Wildlife to see if this location is home to any endangered and protected species as well as contacting the various environmental associations such as EAST, Nature Conservancy, Audubon Society, etc.
that are active, locally, to see if they would be interested in joining forces to protect and preserve this location, if you feel so strongly about it.
Additionally, Defender's of Wildlife and the Center for Biological Diversity may be able to offer guidance as well as help if the area is of a particularly sensitive location.
Key here is balance, between development/conservation and private/public access.
We (the public) are restricted in visiting Sandy Point - another Government deal, but turtles can nest unmolested.
Many folks are fighting new restrictions proposed for Buck Island which are overkill.
Today no-one has access to this area. It's gated off from Judith's and at the new haul road. Only way to get there is by boat.
If (aham) is so ticked about the proposal, how about posting a link to the details so we can review the plan for ourselves and make up our own minds?
IslandHops: I totally agree with the essential importance of finding a balance between conservation and access. I would love to know why the Park has been shut off from the public for so long. Up until a few months ago there were NPS “no trespassing” signs on the gates. If anyone knows the rationale for this, please share. The only reason I could think of would be to keep people from trampling bird’s nests on the ground, but this seems like an inadequate answer.
As for the links, I would be happy to share. It’s funny, according to NPS this information has been widely distributed so everyone should know about it and have access to it. I, for one, have not found this to be the case, which is exactly why I want to encourage people to discover what is going on, discuss it, and, as you said, make up their own minds.
The first link is important because it represents the way Salt River was regarded and plans to preserve it PRIOR to the influence of the MREC proposal.
“Salt River Bay and Watershed (APR) Area of Particular Concern (APC) And Area For Preservation And Restoration (APR): A Comprehensive Analytic Study,” V.I. Department of Planning and Natural Resources Coastal Zone Management Program, 1993, http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/general/lib/CREWS/Cleo/St.%20Croix/salt_river87.pdf
In this document they address the previous threat to develop Salt River and they encapsulate the sentiment of the time as follows:
“This represents one of the most significant “use conflicts” for Salt River Bay APC. While the project proponents appear to have taken reasonable steps to ensure that the development is minimally disruptive of natural processes, the fact remains that a development of this type and scale is incompatible with the expressed public desire to maintain large portions of the area as open space and to protect the visual and historic integrity of the estuary and its shores.” P.27
This document also states
“Dredging, filling, or any further such alteration of the shoreline of the bay should be prohibited. No alteration of sediment still should be permitted, as such would disrupt natural sediment transport and deposition processes, as well as diminish the still’s contribution to wave energy diffusion,” p. 43, 47
“The construction of additional marinas, or an expansion of existing marina space, should not be permitted activity in Salt River Bay. . . [Moreover] dredging should be a prohibited activity.” The report goes on to say that there should be “no allowable bulk heading in mangrove areas,” which of course are required in the building of a pier. Pp.41, 45.
The next link is the MREC proposal itself. It’s fancy and bedazzling, but I think it is most telling by what it doesn’t say. Not a word about bioluminescence, for instance and public access is merely something to which “consideration should be given” p.70
“The Marine research and Education Center/ Master Plan and Program, National Park service: Salt River Bay National Park and Ecological Preserve/Joint Institute for Caribbean Marine Science,” 2011,
60,000 sf of buildings, 40,000 sf of water tanks and equipment, 50, 000 sf of roads and walkways. Pp. 26, 41.
According to the first requirement of the International Living Building Institute, which the MREC plan claims to be in accordance with,
“projects may only be built on greyfields or brownfields that are not: wetlands, primary dunes, old-growth forest, virgin prairie, prime farmland or within the 100-year flood plain.” P. 105
Putting aside the glaringly obvious fact that the proposal does include development on both nationally recognized wetlands and the 100-year flood plain, what is perhaps even more interesting is how the totality of this site has won the designation as a “greyfield.” The MREC proposal classifies the entire site as greyfield due to the presence of 26,000 square feet of an unfinished and abandoned structure. The rationale being, that because this area has already been tainted by former construction, the current bid to develop it “will be a restorative act and not a destructive one.” P. 22 However, the area of ruins in question lies at the end of a small peninsula, completely within the 100-year flood plain. So effectively, 26,000 square feet of tainted land on the flood plain is paving the way to build over 150,000 square feet of new construction on a hillside of virgin soil above the flood plain. It is hard not to feel like a slight of hand is occurring here
60,000 sf of buildings, 40,000 sf of water tanks and equipment, 50, 000 sf of roads and walkways. Pp. 26, 41.
The MREC plan goes so far as to map out the dividing line that would delineate the “public” areas from the “private” area of the park. Needless to say, the vast majority of the park lies on the “private” side of that line. See p.29 and check out the yellow dotted line.
Also worth a read:
Tropic News, Volume 9, Number 5, 1997. http://ufdcimages.uflib.ufl.edu/CA/01/30/06/99/00084/Vol9i5.pdf
I know this is a bit off topic but maybe we should start something like this: