DPNR completes maintenance dredging at St. Croix's Altona Lagoon

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ST. CROIX - Plants, animals and residents will be able to enjoy Altona Lagoon a bit more, after maintenance dredging there ended last week.

Norman Williams, assistant director of the Department of Planning and Natural Resources' Division of Coastal Zone Management, said sand fills up the culverts from time to time in the small area of the lagoon that has been a popular spot for swimming and net fishing over the years.

Once the culverts are blocked with the sand, the water cannot flow from one side to the next, and the level in the western end of the lagoon gets drastically low and does not provide sufficient oxygen for fish, he said.

Williams said an agreement is in place for a contractor to come in with heavy equipment and clear no more than 500 cubic yards of sand each time that the blockage becomes a problem for the people and wildlife that use it.

Late last year, until just a few weeks ago, residents complained that the water level in the area had only been as deep as ankle level and since the dredging, the water is about waist high for the average adult.

Williams said the permit is granted by the DPNR's Division of Environmental Enforcement and the maintenance permit is usually required every five or six years.

DPNR spokesman Jamal Nielsen said the maintenance dredging and removal of the sand from the banks of the lagoon has been completed and the work was done by Zenon Construction. He said an agreement was in place that allowed the contractor to complete the work free of charge to the government and in exchange for the work, the contractor was able to keep possession of the sand removed from the lagoon floor.

- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email fstokes@dailynews.vi.

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