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V.I. RC&D Awarded $2.7 Million NOAA Habitat Restoration Economic Stimulus Grant

Congratulations V.I. RC&D!

The Virgin Islands Resources Conservation & Development Council, Inc. (V.I. RC&D), in collaboration with numerous partners,  has been awarded over $3 million in grant funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009.

Photo of sediment damage to Coral Bay, St. John, from eroding roads, driveways & construction sites.V.I. RC&D - in partnership with the V.I. Department of Planning & Natural Resources Coastal Zone Management Division, Coral Bay Community Council, Estate Fish Bay Homeowners Association, The Nature Conservancy, University of the Virgin Islands Center for Marine & Environmental Studies, and various researchers from the University of San Diego and University of Texas-Austin - was awarded $2,780,281 in NOAA Coastal & Marine Habitat Restoration funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 for their USVI Coastal Habitat Restoration through Watershed Stabilization project. “We are ecstatic to receive funding to help reduce the impacts of sediment [in storm water runoff] on our coral reefs,” said V.I. RC&D President, Marcia Taylor.

The main goal of the two-year USVI Coastal Habitat Restoration through Watershed Stabilization project is to reduce sediment damages to coastal ecosystems of three USVI watersheds [East End Bay on St. Croix and Coral Bay & Fish Bay on St. John] by installing erosion & sediment control practices to improve portions of foot trails and unpaved roads in each of the three sites. The project also contains terrestrial and marine monitoring components designed to assess the effectiveness of erosion control measures in reducing sediment loads and improve understanding of the linkages between terrestrial sediment inputs and coastal habitat condition.

These actions can benefit island communities by:

  1. Protecting fragile downstream coastal habitats (mangroves, seagrass beds and coral reefs) from damaging sediment-laden runoff;
  2. Creating full and part-time jobs over the two-year term of the project; and
  3. Improving infrastructure and safe public access by properly stabilizing erosion-prone land and roads.

More recently, V.I. RC&D and its partner, the St. Croix Environmental Association (SEA), were awarded a $404,000 grant from the USDA Forest Service / International Institute of Tropical Forestry (IITF), funded through the American Reinvestment & Recovery Act, to implement the St. Croix Hurricane & Hazardous Fuel Mitigation Project.

The project is a management, planning, job training and outreach program. Its goals are to promote hurricane and fire risk reduction, community health, forest health improvement and job training. The project will assess forest health by mapping trees in the right-of-way (ROW) along the major roads of St. Croix and incorporate the data into a Geographic Information System (GIS) database. This mapping will provide an Urban Forest Inventory, Tree Hazard Assessment & Mapping (tracking those trees most likely to lose limbs or fall during a storm as well as a map of where they are located), and a Baseline Map of vegetation for local utilities and public entities for roadside tree management.

The St. Croix Hurricane and Hazardous Fuel Mitigation project will also develop a Roadside Tree Management Plan; conduct hurricane damage mitigation and hazardous fuel reduction assessment & planning along major roads in St. Croix; promote urban roadside tree restoration by planting and caring for new trees; and conduct training workshops to provide / improve urban forestry job skills [GIS training and arboriculture training].

"The most significant part of the project is the GIS component, which will bring our tree management capabilities into the 21st century," said V.I. RC&D Project Manager, Carol Cramer-Burke. "Other municipalities have been using GIS and GPS [Global Positioning System] technologies to manage their tree resources for decades, and this grant will now bring that capacity to the USVI."