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Senator Sammuel Sanes US Virgin Islands District of St. Croix "Commitment You Can See !"

Saving the Bioluminescent Bay at Salt River




Bioluminescence is the production and emission of light by a living organism.  Mangrove Lagoon in Salt River is home to millions of these bioluminescent creatures named Dinoflagellates.




Trip to Bioluminescent Puerto Mosquito in Vieques, PR

In August of 2015 Senator Sanes visited the bioluminescent bay in Vieques, Puerto Rico in order to gather information that may lead to better understanding preservation techniques.  This is important because the bioluminescent bays are very sensitive to slight environmental changes.  In fact, in 2014 Puerto Mosquito went dark for a few months.  This was eventually reasoned as being the result of turbidity, or cloudy water, from runoff of the local area around the bay.  Many different changes to the local environment can cause diminishing or even extinguishing of the natural wonder that is bioluminescence.  


Tours are given of the bioluminescent bay in Vieques.  These operations are likely the majority of the economic base of the island.



Water quality in Puerto Mosquito is monitored 24 hours a day to help prevent damage to the fragile ecosystem of the bay. 



Committee on Energy & Environmental Protection Hearing

On February 4, 2016 the Committee on Energy & Environmental Protection, which is chaired by Senator Sanes, held a meeting to discuss issues in the Salt River area, specifically in the area of Mangrove Lagoon, the bioluminescent bay.

Testifiers were invited and were asked to discuss the following topics:

- Status of Marine Research and Educational Center project

- Federal mandate to avoid building in 100-yr floodplain / status of Salt River Bay's floodplain classification

- Potential national Park Service failure to adhere to their mandate of protection and preservation of the land contained within the park.

- Status of demolition of abandoned hotel on Hemer's Peninsula.

- Possibility of proposed projects leading to dredging of the bay and the potential impact on/destruction of bioluminescent creatures living in the bay.

- Status of lawsuit.

Testimony Synopsis

- Multiple testifiers spoke to their concern about the close proximity of the Outpost building being built by the National Park Service to the adjacent bioluminescent bay.

- There was discussion of the project not being permitted, inadequate environmental safeguards employed during construction, and the building's location within a floodplain.

- DPNR's Coastal Zone Management division explained that there were no permits issued to the National Park Service for construction nor any type of dredging at this time.

- Demolition work on Hemmer's Peninsula was done with DPNR's authorization.

- The environmental uniqueness of the bioluminescent bay was highly discussed, as well as the potential for greater marketing of the bay as a unique tourist attraction.

- Mark Martin Bras of the Vieques Conservation and Historical Trust explained that the work that is being considered near the bay, would never be allowed to occur anywhere near the bioluminescent bay in Vieques.  Strict rules and regulations do not allow such practices.

- Joel Tutein of the National Park Service explained the intent of the construction of the Outpost and stated that all alternative locations had already been vetted and found unworth or were unattainable. 

Federal Follow-Up

Senator Sanes has contacted Mr. Nikolao I. Pula, Jr., Director of the Office of Insular Affairs of the Dept. of the Interior.  The senator has asked for an update on the current state of finances pertaining to all of the National Park projects on St. Croix, in particular, the Salt River projects.

Senator Sanes has also requested that an environmental investigation be launched in reference to the Salt River construction.  The goal is to learn whether the work is being done properly when it comes to environmental precautions, as well as whether the project should be done in this area at all.

It is in the best interest of the people of the Virgin Islands to protect this natural wonder to ensure that it continues to be available for education and enjoyment for generations to come. 

Information Center

32nd Legisature of the Virgin Islands

District: St. Croix

Party Affliation: Democrat

Term: Fourth

Standing Committees

Chairman: Committee on Government Affairs, Veterans, Energy & Environmental Protection

Vice Chair: Committee on Housing, Public Works, Waste Management & Planning

MemberCommittee on Rules & Judiciary, Committee on Health, Hospitals and Human Services, Committee on Economic Development & Agriculture


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Contact Information

Office of Senator Sammuel Sanes

Senate Majority Leader

32nd Legislature of the Virgin Islands

Address: 100 Lagoon Homes, Suite 2

Frederiksted, St. Croix USVI 00840

Telephone: 340-712-2278 

Fax: 340-712-2380

Email: [email protected] 

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