Image by Ana Singh

Round Bay Watch

PROTECT ROUND BAY

"Round Bay Watch" is passionately committed to respecting, protecting, preserving and enjoying Round Bay’s natural resources.  

 

We are strenuously opposed to this administration's attempts and plans to grow Tourism quickly for business at the expense of our mid- and long-term existential well being. Our vision includes creating a sanctuary for our local turtle nesting population, and preserving the final resting place of the historic shipwreck of the HMS Santa Monica, a Spanish frigate which battled the British HMS Pearl in 1778 and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

 

We promote a sustainable, resilient environment that embodies the natural, historical and cultural heritage of the East End allowing this gift to be shared with visitors and residents for eternity.

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Cruz Bay 1950's: When once a Living Bay

 

The waters and submerged lands of the Virgin Islands are a precious and irreplaceable resource owned collectively by the People of the Virgin Islands. The Government of the Virgin Islands is the Trustee of these lands, and it bears the responsibility to ensure that this publicly owned resource is only used in ways that will benefit the people.

 

Who should be the prime beneficiaries of these public waters and submerged lands? Certainly the interests of native Virgin Islanders must figure prominently in this consideration. Secondly, all residents of the Virgin Islands have a clear interest by virtue of their presence as land owners and tax payers. Low on the list should be newly arrived business people with a short term interest in exploiting Virgin Island resources for their personal profits.

 

And if DPNR considers placing transient vessel mooring balls in the healthy and historically important waters of Round Bay, they are not considering the interests of the local families who live on the surrounding hillsides and seek to protect these waters for future generations or the existing and long standing designation as a non­mooring bay. Their consideration is the interest of yacht owners visiting St John in their private vessels for their personal enjoyment and Charter boat companies whose motive is profit.

 

The question is simple: as the Trustee for the public waters of St John, whose interest should the Government of the Virgin Islands be protecting? Outside investors and newly arrived business people with a short term profit motive, or the native and resident families of St John whose interest lies in providing a sustainable income for their families and protection of our public resources for the enjoyment and benefit of future generations? 

Round Bay aerial

Round Bay, East End, St. John, Virgin Islands

 

On the East End of St. John in the once sleepy Round Bay, in the shadow of Irma and Covid-19, one of our last truly living bays is being destroyed by fleets of charter boats and marine Tourism Policy.

 

By encouraging economic growth with short sighted business models designed to seize all opportunities regardless of the consequences to the communities and environments impacted, and by encouraging behavior destructive to those communities by turning a blind eye and failing to even enforce our laws, Policy is changing Round Bay and East End, almost overnight, turning this recently remote sanctuary into a busy tourism harbor with no rules and less and less respect for place and people.

 

Now, some assert that "moorings" will save the bay but, in truth, moorings just make it easier for human activity to destroy it, and no one has presented evidence that frequent human and big motor boat traffic can co-exist, over time, with healthy, vibrant reef which Round Bay, one of very few left, still has, for now.

 

We must not squander those things that make us special. If we do not stop now, tragically, once again, unbridled, disrespectful, and short sighted Policy for Profit will destroy what Tourism seeks, along with all of our cherished ways of life.

 

Only preservation pays dividends forever. 

Round Bay Eco & Heritage Park

 

The Vision

Round Bay, East End is the rare place where visitors experience:

Opportunities to study and learn about St. John history, coral, fragile ecosystems, archeology, sustainability...

A welcoming community that appreciates and promotes learning about the very rich history of the East End, unspoiled nature and tranquil beauty, a St John experience unlike anywhere else on island, even world wide.

East End- Round Bay is a family and all age, sustainable destination that promotes health and fitness with true educational, historical and cultural learning opportunities.

 

The Approach

Limit motorized boats to a 6 mph maximum speed limit with no jet skis, water skis, wakeboards or tubers allowed...

Install permanent markings to identify the wreck of the Santa Monica. 

Prohibit anchoring and overnighting. 

Enforce it!

Install 5 dive boat and 5 dinghy moorings.

Renovate the school house building to be a natural, cultural and historical learning center created through a public/private partnership.

Clearly welcome all swimmers, snorkelers, divers, kayakers, paddle boarders, sailors on dinghies and other sailboats sailing/racing through, nature watchers, educational projects, research projects, coral reef experiments etc.

Legal Considerations

The "trust lands" which consist of all of the submerged land from mean high tide to 3 miles out were created by a 1974 act of Congress. The relevant code is shown below:

"48 U.S. Code §1705.Tidelands, submerged lands, or filled lands (a)Conveyance to Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Virgin Islands, and American Samoa Subject to valid existing rights, all right, title, and interest of the United States in lands permanently or periodically covered by tidal waters up to but not above the line of mean high tide and seaward to a line three geographical miles distant from the coastlines of the territories of Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Virgin Islands, and American Samoa, as heretofore or hereafter modified by accretion, erosion, and reliction, and in artificially made, filled in, or reclaimed lands which were formerly permanently or periodically covered by tidal waters, are hereby conveyed to the governments of Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Virgin Islands, and American Samoa, as the case may be, to be administered in trust for the benefit of the people thereof."

 

The key language of course is "to be administered in trust for the benefit of the people."

 

Second, this federal code is incorporated into the Virgin Islands Coastal Zone Management Act (VICZMA). The VICZMA includes this definition: 'Trust lands means all submerged and filled land conveyed pursuant to Public Law 93-435, 88 Statutes 1210, by the United States to the Government of the United States Virgin Islands to be administered in trust for the benefit of the people of the United States Virgin Islands."

 

Third, and perhaps most importantly, there are seven specific findings which MUST be made according to the VICZMA before any permit can be granted for use of Trust Lands. These are listed in Section 911 of the VICMA as follows:

(c) Additional findings necessary. The appropriate Committee of the Commission or the Commissioner shall deny an application under section 910 hereof for a coastal zone permit which includes development or occupancy of trust lands or other submerged or filled lands, unless it or he makes all of the following findings:

 

(1) that the application is consistent with the basic goals of section 903 and with the policies and standards of section 906 of this chapter;

 

(2) that the grant of such permit will clearly serve the public good, will be in the public interest and will not adversely affect the public health, safety and general welfare or cause significant adverse environmental effects;

 

(3) that the occupancy and/or development to be authorized by such a permit will enhance the existing environment or will result in minimum damage to the existing environment; ; 

 

(4) that there is no reasonably feasible alternative to the contemplated use or activity which would reduce the adverse environmental impact upon the trust lands or other submerged or filled lands;

 

(6) that the occupancy and/or development will be adequately supervised and controlled to prevent adverse environmental effects; ... There MUST be a finding that the permit is in the public interest, that the activity will cause minimal damage to the environment, that there is no feasible alternative with less environmental impact, and that there will be adequate supervision of activities to prevent environmental damage.

 

It is the LAW.