After working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to streamline the permitting process for public and private development projects in the Virgin Islands earlier this year, Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett has learned the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) has released a biological opinion (BiOp) on the environmental impact of one of those projects.
The BiOp, issued to USACE by NOAA Fisheries on June 17, concluded that the Amalago Bay project also known as the William and Punch Resort, would cause destruction and adverse modification to critical habitat for threatened elkhorn and staghorn corals if the development moves forward as proposed.
Plaskett said that while the news was disappointing, damage to the environment and the Virgin Islands’ natural resources is not an acceptable cost for any development project and that she is hopeful NOAA, USACE and the developers can come to an amicable resolution that would allow the development to move forward.
“While we need to promote economic development and economic growth in the territory, and particularly on St. Croix, where the local economy has been hardest hit, we need to ensure that we protect our natural resources and the environmental qualities that make our islands so beautiful both to our residents and to the millions of tourists that come to our shores each year.”
“I hope that William and Punch and USACE can work together to address the concerns raised by NOAA and that a proper mitigation plan can be developed and implemented. My office will continue to monitor and keep the public up to date with respect to any other information that develops,” Plaskett said