(CNS): Cabinet’s decision to allow one of Dart’s network of property companies to dig up beach rock from Seven Mile Beach went against clear technical advice from environmental experts. In its review of the coastal work application made by Crymble Landholdings Ltd, the Department of the Environment warned that removing even a sample of beachrock poses a genuine threat to the marine environment and a risk of beach loss on neighbouring properties.
The DoE said geologists have previously warned of the dangers of removing the natural rock formation from the beach because of the destabilizing effect. In a detailed review and a memo rebutting the developer’s claims, the DoE’s technical committee made it clear that they could not support the end goal to remove the rock on the proposed hotel site on Seven Mile Beach north of the new Kimpton resort.
They said the application for the trial removal was also too invasive, noting that the developer could address the questions it has about the rock by far less invasive means.
The DoE said it did not support the justification for the proposed ‘trial’ excavation, and hand-sized samples of beachrock and hand-held drilling for sample would answer the questions about the profile of the rock. The experts said there was no need for such a large-scale trial of one part of the beach that will only tell the developer about that composition of the rock and beach in that very specific area.
“The ‘trial’ will not provide the information required to evaluate how this section of Seven Mile Beach will respond to the removal of the wider extent of beachrock, which is the ultimate goal of the applicant,” the DoE warned. “Previous studies undertaken have consistently advised against lowering or removing the beackrock in this location due to the de-stabilising effect on the beach to the north which is being ‘anchored’ by the rock and the beach running parallel to the beachrock.”
Officials from the government department added that they had real concerns about the impacts of conducting a ‘trial’ for a wider project aimed at removing rock from a 1,700 ft stretch of coastline.
“The works are proposed within the Seven Mile Beach Marine Park and are contradictory to the long-established management policies for the Marine Park Zone, they will place additional stress on the nearshore marine resources and reflect badly on the Islands’ commitment to conservation of marine resources,” the officials stated.
The area is also an active turtle nesting location and removing a naturally forming coastal geomorphological feature for aesthetic purposes sets a dangerous precedent for Seven Mile Beach, the experts warned.
“This precedent would be extremely unfortunate especially for Seven Mile Beach which has been long recognized internationally for its natural beauty, recently receiving the award for the Caribbean’s best beach from Caribbean Travel and Life magazine,” the DoE stated in its memo to Cabinet, which appeared to have been ignored just weeks after the full implementation of the National Conservation Law. That legislation now mandates that all government entities, including Cabinet, give proper consideration to environmental threats before any decision is taken.
Cabinet’s decision to give the green light to Dart to begin the trial excavation on the famous beach has also raised significant concern among local conservation activists. Sustainable Cayman and Save Cayman issued a joint press release condemning the decision by Cabinet to approve Dart’s coastal works application.
Pointing to the technical analysis by the government’s own advisers, the activists say risks should not be taken with Seven Mile Beach. The groups also said that the application affects the seabed, not just private property but crown land and the collective property of all Caymanians and an active turtle nesting area.
The activists pointed out that if Dart “wishes to create more jobs for Caymanians… more sustainable job creation can be achieved through training and employing more Caymanians at the Kimpton Seafire” rather than trying to develop yet another hotel and the short-term unsustainable benefits of such development. “Our small island is reaching its ecological limits for development, particularly on the western side of the island,” the groups stated in their release.
Meanwhile, Dart told CNS that they want to carry out the trial beachrock removal “to collect samples for a geologist to study and confirm” that it is beachrock. A spokesperson for the islands’ largest single landowner added that the results would determine if further removal is feasible.
Despite the warnings from the DoE that beachrock is not a benign substance that can be removed without any long-term effect, Dart has said that if they confirm that it is beach rock they will be applying for a licence to remove all of the rock on the proposed hotel site north of Tiki beach.
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