Government to combat erosion in St. Eustatius | THE DAILY HERALD

Bay Path with a view of Fort Oranje on top of the eroded cliff.

The area where water flows into Claes Gut.


ST. EUSTATIUS –Government is busy combating the erosion of key structures and cliff sides, Acting Government Commissioner Mervyn Stegers said during a press conference. There is currently a drill truck going all over the island and drilling holes to see how the soil is layered. After analytical reports are submitted, Stegers said government can start dealing with erosion all over the island.

There are four types of erosion in St. Eustatius, Stegers said. “The first is wind where the cliffs are caved in. The second is water running down the cliffs and taking soil and sometimes rubble and big stones to the ocean. The third is erosion caused by roaming animals – sheep and goats – because they loosen the soil and eat plants so that wind and rain get hold of the soil and fourth is ocean swells which can take two to three metres of soil when swells are really high,” he said.

Government is looking into ways to prevent further erosion, such as limiting the free movements of roaming animals, as these are a “very severe cause” of the erosion, Stegers explained.

“The wind, we cannot do much about that, but it is very important to get control of the water running down the cliffs.” Stegers said that “not one drop of water” should run from the island into the ocean because Statia needs all the water it can get for agriculture.

“In a sense, we are trying to kill two birds with one stone. If we can catch all the water coming down from the hills it will prevent the erosion from going into the sea. That is why we are going to build more catchments and control which way the water runs. That is what we plan to do in the long-term, but for the short-term we already took some measures,” Stegers explained.

It has not yet been decided to build retaining walls, as this would depend on the survey that’s being done on the outer layers of the soil.

Claes Guts, where large amounts of water run down to the ocean when it rains, will be tackled in the coming months. All rainwater from upper town Oranjestad flows to Claes Gut.

Claes Gut has been cleaned up with all the sand and dirt removed for the water to run freely. The old Fort Oranje moat will be restored. Around the Fort Oranje, there is more than enough room to let the water in first and run freely into Claes Gut.

Claes Gut will be kept open and free of soil after every rainfall, Stegers said. Down the cascade, rocks and fallen trees will be removed so that water can run freely.

Six more catchments will be built all over the island, which can be used mostly by farmers. On the east side of the island there is also erosion. There, another big catchment will be built to catch all the rainwater that falls on F.D. Roosevelt Airport.

The Bay Path was closed because it was deemed unsafe due to erosion. Stegers said government carried out another survey which revealed that there are dangerous spots along the cliff side, but not along the Bay Path. This means that Bay Path will be reopened within a month. Bay Path will be only accessible for pedestrians but remains closed for all motorised vehicles.

Source: The Daily Herald