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Department of Planning and Natural Resources Begins Sunken Vessel Removal in Salt River and Long Reef on St. Croix

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CHRISTIANSTED — The Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) started salvage operations for vessels displaced by the recent hurricanes in the areas of Salt River Bay and Long Reef on St. Croix on Thursday.

“DPNR prioritized these areas because the displaced vessels and hazardous materials aboard are impacting these environmentally sensitive areas,” said DPNR Commissioner Dawn Henry.

Salt River Bay National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve is a unit of the National Park Service, and is jointly managed by Department of Planning and Natural Resources & National Park Service. The park preserves upland watersheds, mangrove forests, coral reefs, estuarine, and marine environments that support threatened and endangered species.

DPNR has taken the lead with the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in conjunction with the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, Army Corps of Engineers and the National Park Service, to begin a long process of removing hazardous materials and vessels from the USVI ports, waterways & shorelines in the aftermath of recent hurricanes.

The U.S. Coast Guard & U.S. EPA assessment teams have identified more than 400 displaced vessels amongst the islands of St. Croix, St. John & St. Thomas.

The Coast Guard hired the National Response Corporation to remove fuel, oil and other hazardous materials from the vessels; while Resolve Marine Group will oversee the salvage and movement of vessels to intermediate holding areas.  Both companies have decades of experience.

Due to environmental sensitivity in Salt River Bay and Long Reef these removals are conducted at no cost to the vessel owners. Some of the vessels salvaged will be moved to intermediate holding areas in Salt River Bay. These areas were chosen as locations with sand, gravel, and mud bottom to temporarily moor vessels while DPNR and the U.S. Coast Guard work with owners to determine the final disposition of the vessels.

Due to safety concerns, DPNR strongly encourages all commercial and recreational operations within the bay to cease during these salvage operations. DPNR and the U.S. Coast Guard ask for the communities’ patience and understanding as we work hard to protect the environment and help restore the beauty of the islands.

Prior to removal of any displaced vessel within the boundaries of the Caribbean National Parks, vessel owners must contact the National Park Service via email at caribbean_recovery@nps.gov or the DPNR at USVIDPNR@gmail.com

For questions or concerns, call the Coast Guard ESF-10 Public Information Officer at (340) 423-6688.

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy has been reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Caribbean region since 1989. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is originally from Detroit, Michigan.

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