No silver bullet for reefs in draft plan

| 10/08/2015 | 18 Comments
Cayman News Service

Vibrant reef in the George Town Harbour, Grand Cayman (Photo by Courtney Platt)

(CNS): Hopes of mitigating the destruction of reefs and the disruption to George Town if government presses ahead with the proposal to develop cruise berthing piers were dashed this weekend with the publication of a draft Environmental Management Plan (EMP). The 74-page document further highlights the problems associated with the development of piers and provides very little hope of any real mitigation.

The draft EMP, however, is largely irrelevant at present because any possible measures to minimise disruption during construction or limit the damage to the marine environment can only be properly considered once government has decided on the specifics of the project – if it does, in fact, go ahead.

The document is based entirely on the findings of the environmental impact assessment, the Department of Environment (DoE) has confirmed. It contains no new information but offers some possible direction that may limit the disruption to the capital during construction and try to protect the marine environment, though the document makes it clear that this would be virtually impossible.

The document is short on specifics and refers to normal legal requirements for any major capital industrial project, but it offers very little hope that the reefs of marine environment could be saved.

Mitigating measures for all of the areas of disruption and destruction, from noise and air pollution during the development to the dredging of the sea bed, are set out in the draft EMP but demonstrate severe limitations when it comes to containing the destruction of the marine life.

Strategies include: “Equipment on board vessels shall be securely stowed to prevent objects from falling overboard. Any objects dropped overboard shall be reported to the CIG,” and: “Prior to commencement of any significant marine construction operation, the Vessel Master or designated crew member shall check for the presence of larger marine fauna. Dredging may only be carried out if risk of collision with the marine fauna is minimized.”

The draft EMP, which was drawn up by Baird, the authors of the EIA, contains a number of vague statements and gives complaint hotlines to report noise and air-pollution, as well as recommendations about turning off engines when machines are not working and contingency plans for hazardous waste spills.

However, it provides no solutions to protect the endangered coral and other marine life that will be destroyed. The document also highlights the significant disruption to life in the capital during the constructions period, which will also undermine the attractiveness of George Town at a time when government is planning to enhance and rejuvenate the capital.

The DoE said the document is being released for information purposes and is a “preliminary” report, which has not been reviewed or updated since it was first produced in April with the EIA.

“The document has not been reviewed by the Environmental Assessment Board, as their efforts have been focused upon the review of the EIA documentation – Environmental Statement, Technical Appendices and Non-Technical Summary. The draft EMP does not contain any mitigation measures that are not already including in the aforementioned EIA documentation,” officials from the DoE added.

An EMP is meant to outline the mitigation measures to be employed during construction and operation or to minimise impacts, as well as monitoring and compliance regimes. As such, it will form part of the tender documentation for the project, should it proceed. However, the DoE explained that it cannot be finalised until the government decides which of the options outlined in the Environmental Impact Assessment Statement they will commit to.

While the draft EMP has been released ahead of the steps in the process and out of context, government is still sitting on the terms of reference from its second sea bed survey and the results of that report, which it is understood has been completed – two documents that are considerably more critical to the process at present than the EMP.

CNS has made several requests to the tourism ministry for the documents but we have so far received no response.

Draft Preliminary Environmental Management Plan

EIA documents

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Category: development, Local News, Marine Environment, Science & Nature

Comments (18)

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  1. satirony says:

    Could support by the Cruise Lines be found for a single pier to accept the huge Oasis Class ships? As in option 4b, it would be placed further out in deeper water, and so avoid 90% of the environmental impacts, both immediate and on-going.

    The competing cruise lines would have to come to a sensible agreement covering docking priorities. The two ships with the greatest passenger capacity on any day, would get priority docking rights. What are the other operators going to do? Retire into a corner and sulk? No, they’ll use the tenders, as they’ve always done

    I know there are objections to this solution, but none is overwhelming. The result would be that Cayman could accept the mega-ships and keep a reduced number of upgraded tenders in place. The increased cost of construction would be offset by the “6-9 million dollars” a year lost by the dive industry with the “preferred option.”

    Passengers who disliked walking the extra hundred yards of the pier, could be accommodated by electric cars, such as they use in many US airports.

    I believe there is a solution that would keep most stakeholders happy enough.

    • Anonymous says:

      This is the dumbest alternative I have heard so far. What are you going to do about the cost? If Government goes ahead, they will find an excuse to still spend $100million and you are handing them said excuse, build it twice as long. electric cars driving at a walking pace is not going to be any cooler, or are you suggesting they careen through the crowds?

      The passengers should really love that 1/2 mile walk in the hot sun much better than waiting in the hot sun for a tender. Why not suggest ways to improve the tender experience?

    • Anonymous says:

      If all you’re worried about are the mega-ships, just get bringer tenders, male some dockside security screening, and anchor away. The dock is always about the ‘extras’ first it was the upland development, now its about the ‘marine engineers’ trying to get contracts. (The shops on land, and the taxis, won’t actually see any significant business increase, as per the financial assessment (outline business case) done before moving to the EIA.)

  2. WaYaSay says:

    I had promised myself that I would no longer comment on this proposed Mega Dock, my position has been stated several times and, from speaking to Moses, it is possible that this thing is a done deal, if him and the PPM can find the money to borrow, or another method to finance and build it.

    I even understand that a consortium of the wealthiest Caymanians, who will directly benefit the most, have been liquidating assets with the possibility of financing Government, partially, on this venture. If this is so I applaud their ingenuity, make money on the front end and residually through interest payments, make money on the back end.

    I had fooled myself by telling myself that Government would not be able to find financing from a reputable financial institution to build this debt attracting monstrosity…………I was wrong.

    We could not afford the new West Bay Highway either, but we got one………..without a dollar of debt. The catch is………..Dart gets to import building materials, without paying import duty for his building expansion on Island… we need it or not…….we do not get to decide and he gets a piece of West Bay Road directly on Seven Mile Beach. In addition he gets to collect and keep 50% of tourist taxes for 40 years. This combination has a value multiple times more than the $65million we did not pay for the road.

    I say that to say this; the proponents of the new Mega Dock are fast learners………If this kind of deal is good for Dart, it MUST be good for other rich Caymanians as well.
    Here is how I think that we will pay for the Mega Dock that we really do not need, notwithstanding that tendering can deliver over 2 million cruise passengers as is, even more if it is upgraded and we use multiple landing sites.The ultra rich Caymanians liquidate assets and borrow in order to amass the $150million needed. They generously offer to put up the money and build the new Mega Dock, at NO cost to Government. Bye, Bye Balboa.

    How do they get paid back, if Government has no money? you may ask. Let me set out a hypothetical scenario.
    1. First of all, the full 2 million plus cruise passengers will get delivered to their door steps on Harbour Drive if the new Mega Dock is built.
    2. More Duty Free outlets owned by the lenders will open along Harbour Drive.
    3. Harbour Drive will be turned into a pedestrian only street.
    4. Thereafter the cost of Government compliance and licensees to build and start up new competing duty free businesses will become astronomically high. (Stop whining, Government needs the extra cash to service the debt it already has?)
    5. Government expands the list of Duty Free items (beyond 100% pure crystal) to what it was in the 80’s, or further, to coincide with the buying trends of what today’s cruise passenger wants to buy.
    6. The lenders get to collect 50% of the cruise ship taxes for the next 40 years.
    7. It very possibly could all get done with Dart’s money, if he buys the Caymanians’ assets and puts up the remainder of the money. This would shut up those that bitch and moan that Dart will soon own all of Cayman, as rich Caymanians will be the front men and benefit as well; to say nothing of his stake in the duty free jewelry business as incentive.

    The end result is that the rich Caymanians get much, much richer and me, you, our children, our grand children and our great grand children, get to work until retirement to service the debt that successive Governments have amassed and future Governments will add to.

    We all get to do this from higher taxation due to the fact that the 50% of the potential increased tourism sector income, because of these improvements, will go to the private sector and we will have higher repayments on the other Government debt, than the present tax regime can service.

    Wake up……..wake up…..wake up WaYaSay………… are nothing but a dreamer and conspiracy theorist……….stop commenting on this Mega Dock…….This can NEVER happen, EVER in Cayman. Bye, bye Balboa.

    ps. I am trying to set a record with this post, I want to see how fast I can amass multiples of 25 “thumbs down” from the pro cruise ship mega dock group………..will I get 50, 75, 100, 125 or 150? Bye, bye Balboa.

  3. JBarnes says:

    CNS continues to out do themselves with every article. The only words in this whole report that speak any truth at the title. There was never expected to be a “Silver Bullet” to save the reefs. This is a living situation and will need joint efforts and responsible management to ensure all processes during the project are done to minimize effects on the reefs. CNS must have read through a whole different document than I did. What I read through (in its entirety) is a well thought out explanation of the processes and oversight bodies needed along with stringent guidelines to protect any threatened areas.
    Why does CNS not highlight parts that include three oversight bodies that will have controls in the project to ensure minimal environmental threat (EMC – Environmental Monitoring Consultant, ESS- Environmental Site Supervisor, DOE-SEMC – Site Environment Management Committee). Why not highlight the steps, processes and checks and balances instead of this one sided reporting? Why not report on how the turbidity levels trigger actions and reporting? Why not talk about the regulatory framework, Best practice Guidance, reporting requirements, environmental training?

    Why not report on the EMP Outputs: “Specific targets and actions to reduce the impact of project development…”
    “Environmental monitoring protocols for specific parameters tailored for various phases of the project…”
    “Pro-active and ongoing training for workers and subcontractors regarding the EMP and the potential environmental impacts of the decisions and activities that they undertake”
    “Public communication program to encourage environmental stewardship amongst visitors, residents and businesses in Grand Cayman”

    Why not talk about the coral monitoring?

    Why not talk about how specific areas such as Eden Rock, Sotos and devil’s Grotto are specifically named and tolerances will be given with measuring and constant surveillance to ensure their protection?

    Why not talk about the detailed EMP strategies?

    “Objectives of EMP:
    Minimize direct and indirect damage to marine flora on reef areas within and adjacent to
    dredge footprint;
    •Ensure that the turbidity plumes from the works and re ‐ suspension of material from land reclamation and off‐site disposal do not significantly impact the long term ecological function and integrity of adjacent reefs (i.e. Soto’s Reef, Eden Rock, Devil’s Grotto and deep reef sites);
    •Implement a rapid‐response monitoring program that will facilitate adaptive management during dredging and construction of the project”

    • Anonymous says:

      I’ll tell you why not bother to report on all the blowhard, made up to sound important positions or wishfully effective methods, training or reporting or monitoring or what ever you want to come up with as a fairytale cure for destroying Georgetown Harbor. It is because when that cutter head starts turning and that silt starts flowing, there is not a damn thing anyone can do to stop it. Not you or Alden or Gene or Chris or Moses can stop the damage that will ensue. And when it hits 7 mile beach, good by Cayman tourism…..I can’t believe I let you make me mad enough to write this.

      • Anonymous says:

        Technically they say it won’t be a cutter suction dredge. and even in the dooms day crack case scenario nothing goes near the beach.

        • Anonymous says:

          Well, even after all the SCIENCE that is known about dredging and all the SCIENCE that is known about the environment, the bottom line is the EIA and the scenarios that you guys like to come up with, it is only a BEST GUESS as to what will happen.

    • Anonymous says:

      See the PC hackers are hard at it 94 likes don’t make me laugh. The like dislike tabs on this topic are now so discredited a bit like the pro berthing lobby

  4. Anonymous says:

    The big problem being hidden by this debate is the gradual collapse of the stayover tourism business. Whatever the Minister claims about arrivals the fact is that most of the time hotel occupancy is not maxing out or anything like it. In fact for much of the year there is plenty of availability because the room rates being asked are unrealistic and there are few takers.

    Two big name hotels are in receivership, another is up for sale and TI is now relegated to re-development status. In addition a number of other hotel projects and redevelopments seem to be on hold. At the same time Dart are bringing another 400 rooms into a market so saturated that even the current deals at the 174-room Holiday Inn Resort can’t fill the place.

    I’m assuming Ken Dart has the resources to run the Kimpton at the loss but the other struggling hotels don’t so they might just decide to cut their losses and close – it won’t be the first time that happened. If we’re not careful Seven-Mile-Beach could become the most picturesque hotel graveyard in the Caribbean.

    DoT need to stop kidding themselves that ‘over-priced’ equals ‘high-end’ or that Grand Cayman has anything special to offer visitors. They then need to take a long hard look at how far we have fallen behind the competition in the region. If they don’t wake up to this soon the stayover decline could become terminal and cruise arrivals will be the only realistic option – if that happens the cruise lines will have us where it hurts the most.

    • Anonymous says:

      11.43, are you mad? Second year running hotels are still full even now! Seen the hundreds of white plate cars causing chaos? You must live in Little Cayman

  5. Anonymous says:

    I hope Moses, Jerry, Gene, Robby and PPM are happy with the full report now. More evidence that the CBF is a really really really bad idea!

    • Anonymous says:

      You need to read the report, not just CNS headlines. Read posting at 1:56pm and you’ll see how this dredging can be handled properly so we can upgrade Cayman to keep pace with our competitors and get 1000 new jobs! We need the dock.

      • Anonymous says:

        No, WE DO NOT. You may- you may be willing to put your personal greed before the welfare and protection of our entire country. But let one thing be clear- WE THE MAJORITY DO NTO NEED THIS STUPID DOCK!

      • Anonymous says:

        ‘So WE can upgrade Cayman’ . Who is “WE”? You must have a mouse in your pocket.

  6. Anonymous says:

    “He hath founded it upon the seas” should have the words added “but the seas cannot get in the way of profit”.

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