(CNS): Local marine experts have said that an efforts to relocate the extensive amount of coral under threat from the proposed cruise berthing facility will cost a minimum of $40million and it is exceptionally unlikely to succeed. The latest warning from the National Conservation Council comes in the wake of the premier’s announcement that the massive threat to George Town’s environment is not enough to derail the project and it will be moving to the next stage.
The NCC however has pointed out that the recent finding of the second seabed survey which although flawed has confirmed the original Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) results The survey also makes it clear that the success of coral relocation on the scale necessary for the reefs in George Town harbour would be complex and costly with limited chance of success.
However with no cost analysis and no sign of the PricewaterhouseCoopers updated outline business case, (OBC) which government has claimed to have but has not made public, the $40million estimate is based on information the NCC were able to get from experts in the US.
“Cost information obtained by the Council from the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary indicates that relocating 134,000 corals would cost well in excess of US$40 million,” the members stated in a release this weekend.
“Coral relocation will not achieve “no net loss” of coral in the direct impact zone and will not mitigate indirect impacts outside of the project footprint,” they also warned, adding that no suitable recipient site has been identified and the concern among local marine experts is that even if the coral could be moved there is no suitable place.
“Coral translocation is, in fact, not mitigation for the in situ coral but a compensatory measure that should not be considered until mitigation in the form of avoidance or minimisation of the impact in situ has been completely ruled out. Until it can be satisfactorily shown that there is no option, other than a Cruise Berthing Facility in the form and location proposed, then mitigation has not properly been considered,” the council added.
Raising a number of concerns about the second survey which did not follow its terms of reference which were not prepared or reviewed by the EIA Steering Group in accordance with original Cabinet guidance.
The review of the survey once again gives clear indication that the facility will cause significant destruction and will undermine a major element of Cayman’s tourism attractions but the public have not yet seen how the cost of the damage or mitigation efforts will add to the overall price tag for the project.
CNS has asked the tourism ministry when the updated OBC will be released and we are still awaiting a response.