Test pit

A test pit is dug by a Water and Power Authority crew in Cruz Bay, St. John.

Historic Preservation Committee chair Pamela Montegut said at Wednesday’s virtual committee meeting she was “taken aback” that the V.I. Water and Power Authority was digging test pits ahead of its planned line burial without an archaeologist on site as ordered by the committee.

“I would like your word that there won’t be any more digging without an archaeologist present in the historic district of Cruz Bay,” Montegut said to WAPA Project Manager Cordell Jacobs, who represented the Authority at the meeting.

“There are considerable assets there that are culturally important to the people of the Virgin Islands, and without proper monitoring, these cultural assets could be destroyed. The people who were here before the Virgin Islands had that name have us in place to prevent damage to that history, and to try to preserve that history. It’s in our very name. Do we need to supply you with a cease and desist until you provide yourselves with an archaeologist?”

Jacobs assured the committee that no further digging would occur without the oversight of an archaeologist.

Test pits that are about three feet by three feet and up to two feet deep have already been dug between Mongoose Junction and the Post Office.

Trenching for the project has not yet begun, and WAPA is in the process of getting an archaeologist under contract, Jacobs said.

Historic Preservation Committee member David Knight Sr. took exception to misinformation about whether wooden poles in the Cruz Bay Historic District would be removed as part of the line burial project.

“You were dishonest when you said the poles would come down and there would be no more wires in Cruz Bay,” said Knight. “I’m afraid the public was given the impression that putting the power underground meant the poles and wires were going to somehow disappear. That’s an impression I got from a WAPA press release and how it was presented to the community on St. John. I think we need to be more honest about expectations so people aren’t upset.”