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January 26, 2004

V.I. leads U.S. in unspent education grants

Department has not spent 38 % of funds granted in fiscal years 2000 to 2002
Friday, January 23rd 2004

The Virgin Islands leads the nation in the percentage of unspent federal education funding, according to a recent review by the U.S. Education Department. Read the whole story here.

This is a really depressing story. From what I can observe St. Thomas is divided in education by class and race. The public schools are in pretty bad shape. To see that the territory can not even spend millions in grant money is outrageous. This is kind of thing that heads would roll for in most townships and municipalities anywhere in the states. Here, probably nothing will happen. There are a couple of lame excuses offered. It is unexcusable. If the local government can't get these things done, then the citizens of these islands should form specific groups to pressure them or to actually over see them in some capacity. I have a pretty specific idea about education. If I can find the time to write it up I will get it on here.

Posted by afinta at 10:50 AM

January 22, 2004

Authorities stop flow of raw sewage into the ocean surrounding St. Croix

Wednesday, January 21, 2004
By Mat Probasco, Associated Press

CHARLOTTE AMALIE, U.S. Virgin Islands — A sewage spill that kept a cruise ship at bay, closed an area beach, and discolored turquoise waters has been corrected, officials said Tuesday.

Heavy rains last month damaged two of three sewage pumps at the Frederiksted sewage station, causing raw sewage to run into the harbor.

After weeks of work, the pumps have been fixed and the problem corrected, said Joseph Bradford, director of wastewater utilities. Dilapidated equipment and shipping problems over the holiday season were to blame for the delay, Bradford said.

The Radisson Diamond cruise ship planned to stop in St. Croix on Saturday but instead went to the British Virgin Islands because of the sewage problem, which temporarily shut down a Frederiksted beach.

Sewage was spilling into the sea at a rate of 50 gallons (190 liters) per minute at some points, Bradford said.

St. Croix has been struggling with its public waste management for more than a decade, with repeated mandates from the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. District Court ordering repairs be undertaken.

Contamination has forced beaches to close, and sewage sometimes seeps through manholes in the island's main towns.

A sewage station in Christiansted is still off-line, and as much as 1.3 million gallons (nearly 5 million liters) of sewage has been pumped into the harbor each day since early December, said Jim Casey of the EPA's Virgin Islands office.

In August, the U.S. Caribbean territory missed an EPA deadline to secure a contract for upgrading sewage systems to comply with the 1972 Federal Clean Water Act.

The territory's public works department, which has acknowledged the seriousness of sewage problems in St. Croix, is due to appear in federal court Thursday to show that they have plans to meet federal clean water guidelines.

Posted by afinta at 10:24 AM

January 16, 2004

Sewage in St. Croix harbor causes cruise ship diversion to British Virgin Islands

By the AP

Friday, January 16, 2004
By Associated Press

CHARLOTTE AMALIE, U.S. Virgin Islands — A cruise company canceled plans to dock in St. Croix this weekend, saying that raw sewage pouring into the island's harbor meant poor water quality and health hazards to its passengers.

The 350-passenger Radisson Diamond will instead stop in Virgin Gorda in the neighboring British Virgin Islands on Saturday, said Radisson Seven Seas Cruises spokesman Andrew Poulton.

The cancelation comes at a time when St. Croix, the largest of U.S. Caribbean territory's three islands, has seen many other cruise ships cancel calls due to concerns about rising crime.

The U.S. Virgin Islands has been struggling with its public waste management for more than a decade, with repeated mandates from the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. District Court ordering repairs be undertaken.

Contamination has forced beaches to close, and sewage sometimes seeps through manholes in the island's main towns of Christiansted and Frederikstad.

In December, the territory's Waste Management Coordinator Stella Saunders said that untreated sewage was spilling into the ocean for five hours each day because two of three sewage pumps at one of the island's sewage station's were not functional.

In August the territory missed an EPA deadline to secure a contract for upgrading sewage systems to comply with the 1972 Federal Clean Water Act.

The government had declared a state of emergency and awarded a contract last year but canceled it amid criticism it had bypassed public bidding.

Posted by afinta at 02:45 PM | Comments (0)

V.I. National Park removed from endangered listSome improvement is seen but some problems still exist, national conservation group says

From the VI Daily News:

Thursday, January 15th 2004

A national conservation association has removed the Virgin Islands National Park from its annual list of the 10 most endangered national parks, which was released Wednesday.

However, a spokeswoman for the group said many of the issues that landed the park on the list last year still exist.

"Overfishing and destruction to coral reefs is a major problem, along with development pressure," said Mary Munson, a regional director for the National Parks Conservation Association. "The problems are still there and just as serious, but it fell from the list because other parks became more endangered. Also, it improved slightly because the interim regulations for the national monument are being finalized."

V.I. National Park Superintendent Art Frederick called the park's removal from the list "good news."

"As superintendent, I am very excited," Frederick said.

The National Parks Conservation Association, which has hundreds of thousands of members, has become a powerful lobbying group since it was established in 1919 to protect and enhance the national park system. This is the sixth year the group has put out the 10 most endangered national parks list.

The V.I. National Park made its first appearance on the list in 2003.

Interim regulations limiting fishing in the Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument, which is managed by the park, are being implemented, said Rafe Boulon, chief of resource management for the V.I. National Park.

The national monument - 12,000 acres of water, most of it south of St. John - was created in January 2001.

The new regulations state that there will be no fishing in the monument with two exceptions: bait fishing with a cast net within Hurricane Hole and fishing by hand line for hardnose - also called blue runner - in an area south of St. John, Boulon said.

"Both of those types of fisheries are not directly linked to coral reefs," Boulon said. "We're trying to enable traditional uses to continue but in a fashion that doesn't damage any of the resources."

Although the fishing restrictions apply to the monument and not to the national park itself, Munson said the Conservation Association hopes to see the fish population in nearby areas - including the national park - rebound with the increased regulation.

"Conditions have not necessarily improved in the Virgin Islands. The resources are still being hammered," Munson said. "But we base this decision on hope, as well. At least there are more protections being put on some of these resources."

Encroaching development, which was cited when the park was put on the list last year, remains a concern, Munson said.

For example, the 376-acre Maho Bay Estate in the heart of the park is divided into 11 shares, of which the park owns three. The remaining eight shares are owned by eight different parties.

The Conservation Association has urged the federal government to purchase the parcels outright or to see that the land is protected from development in some other way. However, that issue has not yet been resolved, Boulon said.

Frederick said that other steps had been taken within the park to protect coral, including the elimination of random anchoring throughout the park. Moorings are used to give people a place to tie their boats instead of dropping an anchor, which can damage coral and sea grass.

Boulon said moorings had recently been installed in the national monument.

The parks on the National Parks Conservation Association's 10 most endangered list, in alphabetical order, are Big Thicket National Preserve in Texas, Biscayne National Park in Florida, Everglades National Park in Florida, Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina and Tennessee, Joshua Tree National Park in California, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Arizona, Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, Underground Railroad Network to Freedom program in 26 states and Washington, D.C., Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve in Alaska and Yellowstone National Park in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.

Air pollution, years of inadequate funding and damaging policies were among the problems the Conservation Association identified that endanger the parks.

The Buck Island Reef National Monument, which was expanded when the Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument was created, did not appear on the list.

In May, interim regulations prohibiting extractive use - removing anything at all, living or nonliving, from the monument area - were put into place, said Joel Tutein, National Park superintendent on St. Croix.

Posted by afinta at 02:44 PM

January 08, 2004

Open Thread

Happy New Year everyone. We had pledged to ourselves to do more here in the New Year but we have had a very hectic start! Hopefully there will be more news and views posted here shortly. Also, if you have something you want to say here (an original article or a comment piece) you can email it to me at webmaster@caribbean-on-line.com
Feel free to talk about anything else on this thread.

Posted by afinta at 10:56 AM

Living Art

Living Art by Steve Simonsen is finally here. We have the book available for purchase on Caribmart.com. St. John really needed a book like this and we are very happy to be able to offer it to you. So far sales and reviews of the book seem very good and the Simonsen's sound very happy that people are so excited about it and it has been so well received.

Posted by afinta at 10:50 AM

January 01, 2004

Christmas Eve

I put some photos up of Charlotte Amalie from Christmas Eve. Check it out.
Happy New Year

Posted by afinta at 01:49 PM | Comments (2)