Landslide And Coastal Hazard Experts Visit The Virgin Islands

Dr. James Joyce conducting studies to assist in producing hazard maps for the Virgin Islands. Photos Courtesy of DDM.

ROAD TOWN, Tortola (GIS) — Throughout this week, the Virgin Islands has been benefitting from visits from experts in landslide and coastal hazard management.

Dr. Aurelio Mercado Irizarry, who specialises in coastal hazards, is a Physical Oceanographer at the Center for Coastal Hazard in the Department of Marine Services at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez. He has spent the last four days visiting the eroding coastlines of Keel Point and West End in Anegada to assess the damage caused by storm surge events.

On Tuesday Dr. Mercado made a presentation of his findings to representatives from Town and Country Planning Department, Conservation and Fisheries Department, Lands and Survey Department, Building Authority and the Department of Disaster Management (DDM) following two days of site visits on Anegada.

Dr. Mercado said, “Many beaches and sandy islands are disappearing as a result of sea level rise. Measures from tidal gauge in Puerto Rico show that in September of this year all historical records for monthly average sea level elevations had been broken for sea level rise and it is expected that the levels for October will be even higher.”

He further said, “The sea level rise trends from as far back as 1955 show a trend of 1.57mm per year. Since 1993 the rate of sea level rise has gone close to 3mm per year for San Juan. This is contributed to water expansion that occurs during the summer as a result of monthly record air temperatures. I would recommend that the DDM examine tidal gauge data from stations such as those on St. John and make a similar comparison for the BVI.”

Dr. Mercado added, “When you think of an island like Anegada, these environmental changes will have a significant impact on any development planned.”

After visiting the vulnerable coastal areas around Anegada and Tortola, Dr. Mercado met with representatives from the Lands and Survey Department and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Labour, Mr. Ronald Berkley to further discuss the current situation and to provide recommendations on how to address the coastal erosion concerns occurring throughout the Territory.

Also visiting the Virgin Islands this week is Dr. James Joyce, an Engineering Geologist from the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez.

Dr. Joyce, a Landslide expert, is currently conducting geological assessments on some of the Sister Islands with the intention of improving the hazard maps and data available for the entire Virgin Islands. Due to the recent development throughout the Territory it became necessary for geological assessments to be carried out so that the hazard data available through the National Geographic Information System (NGIS) can be improved and updated for planning and development activities. Dr. Joyce completed similar works on Tortola, Virgin Gorda and Jost van Dyke in 2011 and presented new slope/cut ratio maps to building professionals at a workshop held in August, 2011. During this week Dr. Joyce is carrying out works on Frenchman’s Cay, Norman Island, Cooper Island, Mosquito Island, Necker Island and Guana Island.

Drs. Mercado and Joyce’s visits were facilitated by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), under the Regional Risk Reduction Initiative (R3i) and through an existing agreement between the University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez and the Government of the Virgin Islands. R3i is funded by the European Commission who allotted €4.932M to the R3i Project, covering a period of 4 years from 2009 to 2012.


Source:  BVI Government Information Service