DoE takes aim at arbitrary road plans

| 24/03/2017 | 48 Comments
Cayman News Service

Wetlands near Midland Acres, Grand Cayman

(CNS): The director of the Department of Environment has criticised arbitrary submissions of road gazetting applications to Cabinet with what appears to be no strategic review to inform or justify them. Gina Ebanks-Petrie raised concerns to the National Conservation Council Wednesday, as it considered recommendations on several proposed road gazettes in the North Side area where the authorities have not assessed the applications in context of any kind of plan or the potential impacts. There was no cost benefit analysis but simply an arbitrary proposal from applicants, she said.

Before going into detail of each of the proposed road gazette applications and why the DoE was recommending that each one be subject to an environmental impact assessment before being gazetted, she said the failure of the authorities to follow best practice and undertake a strategic assessment before applying to Cabinet was “not an approach the DoE can support”.

She said the requirement for new road corridors should be supported by key objectives, consultation and a review of future infrastructure requirements, among other major considerations.

One of three applications was to gazette a road of an unspecified width, running about 4.5 miles from Rum Point Drive in North Side, through the Central Mangrove Wetland (CMW), connecting to Harvey Stephenson Drive and Anton Bodden Drive in Bodden Town. Ebanks-Petrie said the DoE was of the opinion that the proposed road needed an EIA as it will bisect a substantial area of the Central Mangrove Wetland.

“As the ecological heart of Grand Cayman, the CMW is critical to many important natural processes which are vital to the long-term wellbeing of the residents of the Cayman Islands,” the director said.

Stressing that the wetlands are essential habitat areas, she listed a catalogue of sound reasons why the CMW should not have a road cut through it, such as the need to protect water flow systems, shoreline stabilization, carbon storage issues, as well as its role in the provision of nursery grounds and habitat for a variety of marine and terrestrial biodiversity.

It has also been designated as an Important Bird Area, as it supports more than 1,500 individuals or 83% of the Cayman Islands’ population of the globally significant West Indian Whistling-duck, as well as the endemic Cayman Parrot which breeds there.

“The scope and characteristics of the potential significant effects of the proposed road scheme on this nationally important resource will require assessment of the direct and indirect impacts affecting the natural environment of the area,” she told the NCC.

Ebanks-Petrie also pointed to the potential conflict for government, which is considering this area for legal protection under the National Conservation Law and it is currently the subject of public consultation until May.

She said the need for a public road along this route had not been objectively evaluated.

“Large tracts of pristine primary habitat of high ecological and biodiversity value will be adversely affected with the proposed route alignment …the absence of any strategic environmental overview of the proposed alignment, informed by input from the Departments of Planning and Environment, the National Roads Authority and the Water Authority, together with extensive public consultation the sustainability of this road proposal needs due consideration,” she added.

It was not made clear at the meeting why the road had been proposed, though it was stated that the application was supported by the MLA in the district, Ezzard Miller.

The recommendation for an EIA to be carried out by the roads authority before the gazette is considered by Cabinet was backed by the NCC. Ebanks-Petrie explained that the need for an EIA on the gazetting alone was important because history had shown that, even though it may be years before construction begins, it is extremely difficult to get a road alignment changed once it’s gazetted.

Ebanks-Petrie made it clear that it is important to set out the need, assess the cost benefit, if any, and consult the public, among other things, before government gazettes any new roads, especially where they will have a significant detrimental impact on the natural environment and habitat that is culturally and biologically sensitive. In the absence of any assessment or review by the NRA, the DoE director stressed the importance of an EIA.

See Screening Opinion for Proposed Central Mangrove Wetland Arterial (with map)

See all documents for the March NCC meeting here

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Category: development, Land Habitat, Local News, Science & Nature

Comments (48)

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  1. Christine Rose-Smyth - National Conservation Council, Chair says:

    CNS, please could you publish the following clarification to your statement:
    “she [Ebanks-Petrie] said the failure of the NRA to follow best practice and undertake a strategic assessment before applying to Cabinet was “not an approach the DoE can support”.”

    1. NRA was neither the applicant for gazetting of the proposed roads nor the government entity making the consultation request. Application was made to the Ministry of PLAHI by Mr. Ezzard Miller on behalf of signatories to documents described as petitions to government. The government entity requesting consultation with the Conservation Council pursuant to section 41 of the NCL was the Ministry of PLAHI.

    2. The lack of a strategic assessment of the need or viability of the three proposed roads (farm or arterial) was not attributed to a failing on the part of the NRA but rather a systemic failing of the current status quo. The Director DoE was referring only to the fact that the request for consultation did not include any input from the NRA.




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  2. Anonymous says:

    Cayman continues to slowly commit environmental suicide…




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  3. Anonymous says:

    The requirement for an EIA should be the same whether it’s CIG, a statutory body of CIG or a private entity calling for new infrastructure.

    But this is Cayman where there’s a turn a blind eye approach if you’re in the friends and family club.




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  4. Sharkey says:

    Anonymous 7:17 am , I completely understand what you’re trying to say , and agree that farming should have priority and access to their farms . But if that road is put through to Rum Point , the zoning of the area would be change in the twinkle of a eye . The big question we need to ask, who owns land in that area and who is their man ? Mr Miller is just being used in this effort while he is trying to get votes .




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    • Anonymous says:

      Ezzard said a reason for this new road was to help deal with drunk drivers. There must be a better solution to the drunk driver problem.




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    • Anonymous says:

      Sharkey you seem quite confident of your facts. You should go to the land regestry and see who owns the land then maybe you could sign your name




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    • Anonymous says:

      Sharkey, perhaps if you gpt off your tush and did your civic duty, if and when an application goes in to planning to change the zoneing from agriculture to development, by whoever the man is.
      I will gladly be on your team and I am sure Mr. Miller would too if you called on him. He can hardly be viewed as a sell out to the big debeloper.




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    • only some to get says:

      why was there not a requirement when the Esterley Tibbetts was built and went through mangrove to West Bay. Same like a double standard to me to require one road to have EI study and one not?




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  5. satirony says:

    Were the Government to obey their own laws, which demand that the the 1977 Development Plan be reviewed every 5 years, these badly thought-out roads would not be so contentious. Alan Swarbrick, the previous Auditor General, was forceful in stating that the CPA should initiate these reviews, but needless to say, nothing has happened since. So we march blindly on, planning roads and developments in sensitive areas by whipping out a pen and marking a map, when more informed and intelligent solutions could be found. But that would be inconvenient for some, wouldn’t it.?




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  6. Cayman Biting Ants says:

    Yes Sir Thomas it would have been wonderful if some of these hypocritical environmental champions and their greedy relatives had taken their own advice and criticisms before they sold our this island out to benefit themselves and their family legacy.




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  7. Anonymous says:

    The land that these proposed roads are accessing and going through are zoned agricultural lands, for gods sake. How is anyone going to use them for their intended use of agriculture and farming if the Conservation Council is going to deny them access to these lands for growing crops and raising cattle and pigs as is being done in the accessible areas now?
    The Conservation Council needs stop reading tea leaves and objecting for the sake of objecting. Their claim that the land will be subject to application for development is absurd at best.

    In order for the land to be rezoned, there is a process prescribed in law. The Conservation Council has ample access to this process and the proper approach is to address these applications IF and when they arise. They will find that the owners who only want access for agricultural purposes will join them in objecting to these change of zoning applications.
    The place for their objection would be better exercised in objecting to rezoning to development through the channels already provided in the planning law.

    What if the change of zoning is for an eco friendly tourism accommodation that the Island lacks? Should or would they object to that if some rich developer had the means to put in his own access road? The answer is NO they would NOT, or the Government of the day would, rightfully, simply ignore them and go ahead and give permission. Why the bias against farmers?

    No one is asking for these roads into agricultural zoned areas for future development but as a landowner who wants to expand my farming activities, I deserve having my tax dollars spent on SOMETHING that will benefit not only me but the whole of Cayman who consume farm fresh products.

    What does the Conservation Council want me to do? Turn around and buy property zones for tourism development and then apply for rezoning to have it zoned for agriculture? Build my own access roads and add the cost to the price of my produce? Conservation is good, but obstruction for the sake of obstruction is a waste of everyone’s time.

    If prior Governments did not intend to create access to these arable lands why did the zone them agricultural in the first place? Why is it that we can only build roads through mangroves when it is some ultra rich developer who wants to put them through his own land and call it public highway like the Dart / West Bay Road deal?
    Poor North Side, Bodden Town and East End farmers and livestock growers have to suffer while anything related to tourism gets the green light, wetlands and mangroves be damned.

    Cayman is getting less and less for Caymanians every day while large concessions are given to Expats to put roads and buildings where mangroves and wetlands used to be, everyday, yet the only area in the Cayman Islands where Caymanians have large parcels of land that they want to use for agriculture are denied even a marl road to drive their trucks on to harvest their crops. No one had donkeys and mules any longer ant these lands, because of lack of access have remained fallow for many years.

    I for one agree with Mr. Ezzard Miller in his attempts to gain access for poor Caymanian farmers to lands they inherited from their ancestors, who used to farm these areas with donkeys, many years ago.
    We need to spend less money forming Councils and giving them wide ranging powers to be used against Caymanians while they turn a blind eye to large developers who have rapes the West Bay peninsula.




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    • Anonymous says:

      How big a road do you want the country to pay for (to put in place, and to maintain) for you to get to your land (then send the Government bulldozer to clear it for you) in order for you to get your produce to market? – And how big a road has actually been proposed to be put in?

      If those are two different size roads will you admit that there might be an issue lurking here that needs more assessment?




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      • Anonymous says:

        A marl road would be fine by me, or, give me $65 million and I will build one like the new one to West Bay that was built through the mangroves wetlands there.




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    • L.N. says:

      The roads do not need to be public and paid by the public. The property owners that want “roads” to their agriculture land can ask for easements. The location of the roads seem arbitrary and were not subject to public input. These farmers are not being denied access, they simply want Government to pay for it.




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      • Anonymous says:

        Yes, just like the government paid for the road to your property.
        Are North Siders and Bodden Towners less deserving?




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  8. Anonymous says:

    So they just drew some random roads for no justified reason? The Cayman Islands is not a game of Connect the Dots.




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  9. Anonymous says:

    how does this fit in with the east-west arterial extension to frank sound road? it doesn’t seem like any thought went into this, other than Ezzard doing some electioneering.




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  10. Sharkey says:

    People don’t fool yourself and others by thinking that this is only Mr Miller behind this road thru the best and only good piece of ecological swamp land that is left in the Cayman Island . After if this road is put through you’re going see all the players behind it come out.




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  11. Anon says:

    A globally significant duck? Really?




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  12. Anonymous says:

    Ezzard trying to destroy our natural environment AGAIN!
    Vote this clown out.




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  13. Anonymous says:

    What a catalogue of miss-information and DOE propaganda I invite everyone to listen to my response to this rubbish in the form of a personal statement on Monday morning March 27 from the floor of the Legislative Assembly.
    EZZARD




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    • Hazard Ous says:

      You cant even spell misinformation yiu clown. Would love to listen in but the enema I have scheduled promises to be far more rewarding and beneficial.




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      • Anonymous says:

        Perhaps you should learn to spell YOU!
        Love the spelling police who can’t spell themselves.




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        • Anonymous says:

          Personally I love those who attempt to police the spelling police but are unable to distinguish between a spelling mistake and a typographical error. Those are my favourite.




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          • Anonymous says:

            True but it certainly took the wind out of the argument, eh!




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          • Anonymous says:

            10.06am Of course you are only guessing that Ezzard was guilty of a spelling mistake and not a typing mistake.Could have been using a touch screen device and simply touched the ‘s’ key twice in error.




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  14. Sir Thomas says:

    As a community, we have to be thankful for Gina’s relentless courage to speak out against arbitrary proposals that clearly disregard the ecological impact of such development.

    Her criticism is constructive and I’m certain that most would agree that her comments should be taken seriously from Cabinet.




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    • Anonymous says:

      It certainly is and thank God she is not a push-over!




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    • Anonymous says:

      She has also forgotten that it is development that produces the revenue which enables her to pontificate from her air conditioned throne.




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      • Anon says:

        It’s called balance, buddy. Overdevelopment can be a bad ting too




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      • L.N. says:

        Have you seen the DOE offices? Please. She is a Director, not a member of Cabinet. The power lies truly with the elected officials. Director’s do not have thrones, they try relentlessly to do what they were hired to do. Being how long she’s been in her position, it is clear she is respected.




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  15. Mildred Whorms says:

    Why don’t all these people read up on the environmental impact the island will have if these mangroves are removed. Ugh! Just Google it.




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  16. Anonymous says:

    Preservation is necessary…so is eating. National security is now food security. We have to get this.




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    • Anonymous says:

      If this is so important that it can’t wait to be done right, i.e., EIA, then answer the question of when these were first proposed?




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  17. Anonymous says:

    I have an issue with the proposed bypass heading north from BT to the Rum Point area. But the farm roads???? If it is for farming, why can’t the farmers be allowed to access their land?!! For farming for gods sake.

    The unintended consequence of this law will be Caymanians having their land devalued to nothing. Then after they sell for pennies on the dollar, the new wealthy owner will have the Government of the day make the necessary changes to any law to facilitate developing that same land.




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    • Anonymous says:

      The ‘unintended’ consequence of the roads is to open the ‘farm’ land up to development. There is already farming in the area, with farm roads to them. There is also a lot of land that’s not great for farming, but would make nice sub-developments, if they only had road access.




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  18. Anonymous says:

    I’d add, none of our horrendous NRA roundabout “beautification projects” ever seem to go to Planning for permission from Block/Parcel neighbours/stake holders as would be normally required by any other endeavour.




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  19. Anonymous says:

    I’d like the next government regime to dismantle the partitions between these dozens of siloed intergovernmental departments all operating autonomously. They seem engrained in the habit of either replicating expensive efforts, or disregarding or subverting the efforts of others. Always a delayed response, without collaboration, much antagonism, ego, lingering opaqueness, and endless unaccountability. So tired of it. People need to be called back to the boardroom and fired for wasting our time, money and depriving the country of honest SERVICE. We need to shine a bright light in on these murky autonomous departments: NRA, Lands and Survey, and Planning.




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  20. Sharkey says:

    That’s right Ms Ebanks – Petrie you tell them just like would.
    I think that they don’t care about anything but another development and money .




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  21. Anonymous says:

    Perhaps an anonymous land owner with hidden agenda to open up access to his land




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  22. Anonymous says:

    Better route perhaps than through sensitive wetlands? Hi. Think about it.




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  23. Anonymous says:

    Be interesting to see who owns some of the land in the area that is near on currently worthless but with some nice roads and access see the prices rocket!!!!!!!!!




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