Senators Tour Mandahl Bay


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Developers and environmentalists vie for senators’ attention during Mandahl Bay tour
Published: February 11, 2015

ST. THOMAS – Ten senators went down to Mandahl Bay on Tuesday to see with their own eyes the land Mandahl Bay Holdings wants to turn into a resort and marina.

They were met with dozens of opponents to the project, who followed the senators around as the lawmakers listened to the developers explain what they want to do in the area.

A local homeschool group with small children splashed and kayaked in the salt pond; teenage environmental activists challenged the developers on the impact such a development would have on the ecosystem; and a group dressed as Taino Indians set up tables with information about the ancestral natives of the islands.

Mandahl Bay Holdings has plans to build two hotels and a marina on the northside of St. Thomas, near and around Mahogany Run and incorporating Mandahl beach.

Standing on the beach, George Dudley, the attorney representing Mandahl Bay Holdings, told senators that the area is used as a drop-off point for human trafficking, drug trafficking and murder.

“The best thing for the area is development,” Dudley said.

A chorus of objections drowned out Dudley.

“Why would you want it if there are so many negatives?” Friends of Mandahl Bay member Sharon Hupprich said.

“You just don’t get it,” Mandahl Bay Holdings President Karl Blaha told the outraged crowd, shaking his head. “The environment is going to be improved.”

When someone shouted that the land is meant for the people, Blaha responded: “We own this land.”

Senators in the bush

The site visit by senators was organized by Sen. Janette Millin-Young, the chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Economic Development, Agriculture and Planning.

Senators who spent the morning visiting Mandahl Bay were Jean Forde, Novelle Francis Jr., Justin Harrigan Sr., Almondo Liburd, Terrence Nelson, Nereida Rivera-O’Reilly, Clifford Graham, Tregenza Roach, Kurt Vialet and Millin-Young.

As senators traipsed around the beach and wetland areas, they asked a few questions of the developers and their representatives.

When asked how the fishermen who launch their boats from the salt pond area would be affected by the development, Springline Architects’ Tracy Roberts said the project includes a dinghy dock for the fishermen that will be available for use free of charge.

She said when dredging is done in the marina basin, it will impact the ecosystem.

“The fish will die, during the dredging,” she said. “However, once we’ve completed this, they will come back.”

She said the same goes for birds and other wildlife that likely will be scared away by construction but will return to the area when the work is finished.

An eye on the ecosystem

Roberts said the developers plan to hire consultants to do “resource gathering” to catalogue the natural resources on the property. That information will go into a master plan, which will have much more detail on exactly how the area will be developed.

The developers will avoid damaging the ecosystem wherever possible and will mitigate any damage that does have to occur, Roberts said.

At one point, she mentioned the “Save Mandahl Bay” documentary, made by Karl Callwood, that highlights the wildlife and unique environment of Mandahl. Roberts said the project’s environmental consultant, Amy Dempsey of BioImpact, saw the video and said it could have been shot at a number of areas around St. Thomas.

The crowd exploded in anger.

“There are only two ecosystems like this on the island, here and in Red Hook. You cannot record this anywhere else,” 16-year-old Jonisha Aubain said.

She suggested senators pay a visit to any of the other marinas around the island that were allowed to move in and destroy wetlands and mangrove lagoons to see how much of that wildlife came back.

“Let’s compare the difference,” Aubain said.

Details in flux

Several senators asked why the details of the project still seem to be changing.

Dudley said it costs a lot of money to move ahead with the more detailed planning and design, and that stage will not commence before the lease agreement is in place.

However, Dudley said he recognizes that senators want to see more details before approving the lease.

“We’re getting into a chicken or egg situation here,” Dudley said.

Blaha said he appreciates the concerns of the community, and the project is not taking the environmental concerns lightly.

“The work has just begun,” he said.

As the project moves ahead, there will be a number of federal and local permits that will have to be secured – all of which will require severe scrutiny, according to Blaha.

“We will have to comply with every requirement necessary,” he said.

The first 99-year lease, which the proposed lease would replace, was signed in 1964 by former Gov. Ralph Paiewonsky. That deal was for a developer to build a hotel on the nearby island of Hans Lollick and 150 homes and a marina at Mandahl Salt Pond. That project never got off the ground, and the lease has traded hands several times in the decades that followed.

The Hans Lollick piece was separated from the Mandahl lease and currently is owned by a different developer.

The latest developer, Mandahl Bay Holdings, applied in 2009 for land and water CZM applications that were met with strong opposition from the community.

More than 400 people attended a public CZM hearing on the two permit applications for the project in March 2009.

The CZM committee denied the permits, but the developers appealed the decision to the Board of Land Use Appeals, where it has languished without action ever since.

The developers of the revamped project, “Port of Mandahl,” said that appeal will be withdrawn and the project will submit brand new CZM applications if the lease is ratified by the Senate.


Please do the right thing Senators



Vote down this proposed lease for those you represent now, and for future generations.
By Susan M. Parten, P.E  – submitted to the VI Daily News

Honorable Senators:

The reason for this letter is to share with you my concerns and opposition to a lease requested by Transcontinental Realty Investors, for their proposed development in Mandahl Bay. While such a proposed lease agreement is not yet before the 31st Legislature, and would need to be sent to you anew by Governor Mapp, I feel it’s important to emphasize certain overarching circumstances surrounding this proposed development. I was very glad to hear that most of you visited the site this week, some of you for the first time, where this massive commercial development is proposed.

I have read about, and seen concept renderings for the proposed development. Though there’s much that could be said about the “performance history” of those requesting this lease, — and I do hope you have done or will do your due diligence in that respect — I will only comment here on those things I can speak to professionally, as a civil – environmental engineer having formal education/training and over thirty years of experience in these areas of science and engineering. Continue reading

A special place in my heart

profleMandahl Bay holds a special place in my heart
By Nolan Diehl, submitted to the VI Daily News and the St. Thomas Source

People of the Virgin Islands, my name is Nolan Diehl and I am writing this letter to support the Friends of Mandahl Bay in an effort to preserve this Caribbean community that we are blessed to call home.

I was born in the cold, grey, and bleak state of New Jersey where industry was such a prominent facet of everyday life that it superseded the natural world. Fortunately, my parents moved our family to the beautiful island of St. Thomas when I was four and my recollection of those early years is faint. For the next 20 years our family grew together in Mandahl Bay, relishing all of the priceless wonders this unique setting had to offer. Continue reading

One of the few remaining marine environments

profleMahdahl Bay is one of the few remaining marine environments is St. Thomas. 
By Michael and Catherine Von Hatten – VI Daily News, February 10, 2015

As property owners in Mandahl Estates, we are writing to express our opposition to the proposed development of the Mandahl Bay area. We believe the proposal will have a negative impact on the environment, benefits a few at the expense of many, and violates the terms of the original grant. Additionally, it has a negative impact on those whose property is adjacent to the development. Continue reading

Mandahl Bay for the People

profleMandahl Bay for the People
By Charlie Davis, Mandahl Resident –  VI Daily News, February 3, 2015

A well respected St John educator told me “Now I know how the American Indian felt when he was put on a reservation.” I feel much the same way here on St Thomas as I see more and more of our precious green space, shoreline and local lifestyle under attack by outside exploiters. Specifically, I am referring to the proposed development at Mandahl Bay by The Port of Mandahl group which is a subsidiary of Transcontinental Realty Investors, a New York Stock Exchange Company. Continue reading

Once it’s gone…

Every day letters like these are being sent to our local news sources. Read what people are saying about Saving Mandahl Bay

profleMandahl Bay: Once it is gone, it is gone forever
Bonnie J. Jackson, former St. Thomas resident
VI Daily News, December 19, 2014

When I was younger my family owned two houses high up in Estate Mandahl. I fondly remember my summers there as well as working there as an adult. I hope to return when I retire. As a former dive master in St. Thomas and a professional fisheries biologist, I have seen habitat degradation and destruction first hand on other islands due to land development. Continue reading

Word is spreading

Sturgeon General Sylvia Earle’s Mission Blue project is helping to spread the word
about Saving Mandahl Bay! Visit the Mission Blue page at:


Developers are planning to construct a large scale hotel and marina on a sensitive tropical wetlands area teeming with rare, endangered and protected wildlife at Mandahl Bay, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. Support the efforts of


Mission Blue is a global initiative of the Sylvia Earle Alliance, a 501c3 organization, which was formed in response to Sylvia Earle’s 2009 TED Prize wish. Dr. Earle urged people “to use all means at your disposal — films, expeditions, the web, new submarines — to create a campaign to ignite public support for a global network of marine protected areas; Hope Spots large enough to save and restore the blue heart of the planet.”

We thank Sylvia Earle and Mission Blue for supporting our efforts to Save Mandahl Bay.

Please share the Mission Blue film with your family this holiday season!