DeJongh calls for special Senate session to OK Crown Bay dredging

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ST. THOMAS - Gov. John deJongh Jr. issued a statement Friday night calling for a second special session of the 30th Legislature to convene in as many weeks.

In his letter to Senate President Shawn-Michael Malone, the governor asked the Senate to convene on Wednesday and approve a CZM permit to allow the V.I. Port Authority to conduct dredging operations in Crown Bay on St. Thomas and to amend Act. No. 5089 to allow the Port Authority to authorize a bond issuance without having to get Legislature approval for reissuance of the bonds.

The specific capital projects tied to deJongh's amendment request are for improvements at Crown Bay as well as for the Gallows Bay project and improvements to Ann Abramson Pier on St. Croix.

Malone said Friday night that he responded to the governor and asked him to reconsider allowing the Senate to take up the matters during a session planned for July 28.

The Senate originally planned to conduct a legislative session on Monday to consider a number of bills, nominations and other matters, but that agenda has been moved to July 28, according to Malone.

Last week deJongh called a special session that took place Wednesday for senators to consider a $50 million borrowing bill to help the territory's hospitals pay the power bills, for Luis hospital to meet it payroll and for other matters.

Malone said rather than have three sessions in the space of two weeks, if the governor allows the Senate to take the matters up on July 28, it would be more cost-effective, would allow some senators who will be off-island next week to participate and would give the Legislature's legal counsel more time to prepare.

By law, the Senate must meet when the governor requests it and must meet on the date the governor sets, according to Malone.

In his letter, deJongh said the actions are necessary to mitigate the loss of additional cruise ship calls to the Virgin Islands at the peak of the tourist season.

"In these critical times, we can ill afford to jeopardize an economic activity so essential to our economy, which are scheduled cruise ship calls to the pier at the Austin 'Babe' Monsanto Terminal," he wrote.

The approval of the CZM permit for dredging Crown Bay is needed because the Port Authority is on a tight deadline to get Army Corps of Engineers approval, contract a firm to do the work and complete the dredging by Nov. 3.

"It is imperative that this project be approved now if it is to progress without disruption as we approach the busy tourist season," deJongh wrote. "Failure to complete the dredging by the deadline will result in the immediate cancellation of 13 cruise visits to Crown Bay, representing the loss of 38,000 passengers, with a resulting loss of almost $400,000 in estimated Gross receipts to the territory."

Malone said he expected the governor would respond sometime this weekend to Malone's request to set the date for July 28.

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