Transfer and Transition
of Water Island


Things began to change on Water Island in early 1991. The Department of Interior began the process of figuring out what to do when the Master Lease expired on December 31, 1992. All Sub-Lease owners received the below letter in April of 1991.

On 24 December 1992, the Department of the Interior wrote letters to the Master Lease Holder and each sub-sub leaseholder offering to sell them title to their respective land on Water Island for $46,000 per acre. Many sub-sub leaseholders sent in a deposit to reserve the right to purchase their land.

Here is a List of Early Sub-Lease Holders

This was the start of several years of emotional discussions between the Department of Interior and Water Islanders to determine the fair amount to be charged by the Department for sub-sub leaseholders to acquire the land.

The Water Island Civic Association really came into its’ own during these difficult times. Many felt that the appraised value of the land was too high and various legal steps were taken by individuals. Many houses were not rebuilt after suffering damage from Hurricane Hugo due to the controversy over land values. Sub-sub leaseholders felt that some consideration should be given to the fact that Water Island would not be what it was if not for their early efforts to develop the island.

By May 1993, the sale of Water Island land to sub-sub leaseholders was put on hold. The VI Government wanted only those who had built homes or business on the land to be able to purchase title. The VI felt that all other land would go to the VI Government. Some sub-sub leaseholders built cisterns or other small structures to retain the right to purchase their sub-sub leased land.

On 15 September 1995, Hurricane Marilyn passed between St. Thomas and Culebra with 104 mph sustained winds and 129 mph gusts. Water Island suffered severe damage. The lifestyle, development and interest in Water Island really took a big hit. Remember, Hurricane Hugo was just 6 years earlier and many had just rebuilt their homes.

On 27 October 1995, the Department of the Interior announced that it would negotiate the cost of current leaseholds due to the destruction caused by Hurricane Marilyn.

In June 1996, the Department of the Interior notified sub-sub leaseholders that the final price to obtain title to the land would be $17,500 per acre. Land on the island that was still held by the hotel master lease would be turned over to the VI Government. Many sub-sub leaseholders tried to buy additional land, but were told there would be no purchase unless you previously held a sub lease.

On December 10, 1996 the Virgin Islands Daily News ran a feature article on the upcoming transfer of Water Island to the Virgin Islands government.

On 12 December 1996, a ceremony was held on Water Island transferring control over Water Island to the VI Government. This picture shows some of the activities at the Ferry Dock.

Water Island Transfer Day Ceremony

Also on 12 December 1996, a Quitclaim Deed was executed between the Department of the Interior and the VI Government. This Deed transferred 50 acres of Water Island (roads, Honeymoon Beach and the old hotel site) to the VI Government. More importantly, Water Island now fell under the control of the Virgin Islands. The Department of the Interior agreed to fund up to $3.3M for the demolition and cleanup of the old hotel site, rebuild the Deepwater Dock, and conduct all required environmental analysis required of a previously used military base.

This information is based on research from documents, Internet resources, authoritative books, newspapers, and other sources. We have done the best we can to be accurate.

-Chuck Gidley & Jim Wilkinson