The V.I. Environmental Resource Station on St. John has been closed since the 2017 hurricanes, but the University of the Virgin Islands is working to rebuild the unique laboratory, which attracts students and scholars from around the world.
UVI President David Hall said the university is “100% committed to rebuilding VIERS, and believes it will be stronger and more useful and accessible to researchers and the public in its enhanced state,” according to an email Friday from UVI spokeswoman Tamika Thomas Williams.
It’s unclear when the facility first opened and how it came to be.
The VIERS website is under construction and “unfortunately, access to historical information has been hard to find,” Williams wrote.
The facility is situated on the remote southern shore of the V.I. National Park in Lameshur Bay, adjacent to hiking trails and coral reefs, with 12 cabins that can accommodate up to 48 overnight guests. A waterside laboratory with a dock is accessible to students and researchers, according to information from the university.
For years, the facility has hosted groups of college students and researchers from institutions like National Geographic, with meals cooked by visiting volunteers who perform maintenance and other work on the site in exchange for temporary lodging.
The rustic, campground-like facility suffered severe damage in hurricanes Irma and Maria in September 2017, but Williams said plans are in place to rebuild.
Based on a campus assessment report, estimated costs are in excess of $3,963,308, including $2.6 million for restoration, $725,425 for mitigation, $210,594 for furniture, fixtures and equipment, and $394,864 for architectural improvements.
Funding will come from federal disaster grants and partial insurance proceeds, and Williams said site inspections were completed in early February, and included personnel from UVI, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Witt O’Brien and the National Park Service.
FEMA has gathered the necessary information and is formulating detailed plans, and the National Park Service has agreed to scatter the large tree stumps and vegetative debris around the VIERS site and other St. John park facilities, Williams said.
A timeline for the project is dependent on a final determination from the State Historic Preservation Office on the historic status of the site, and it’s expected that architectural and engineering work will take around six months. Williams said the project is anticipated to be complete in around 18 months.