DoE warns against Barkers seagrass removal

| 27/02/2019 | 83 Comments
Cayman News Service

Live coral off Barkers in seagrass removal area (Photo courtesy DoE, CLICK TO ENLARGE)

(CNS): The Department of Environment has said that removing more than four acres of turtle grass in Barkers will adversely affect essential habitat for protected species, that it will destroy live coral and lead to beach erosion, among many other problems. Following comments by the tourism minister that a controversial coastal works application by the owner of Calico Jack’s bar might prove “successful”, despite local objections, the DoE has published its scientific findings, which make it clear the project would have a very serious impact on the marine habitat and beach, and include detailed recommendations about why the application should be refused.

During an appearance on Radio Cayman on Monday, Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell said that the application to develop in Barkers, which was made by Handel Whittaker, was a good example of people wanting to develop in the right way, as he hinted that government backed the project and all parties were looking for a way to make it happen.

But the DoE’s review of the formal coastal works application indicates that this project would not only pose a significant threat to the environment in and around the site, which is a marine replenishment zone, but that the aim of creating a crystal clear sandy bathing area was fruitless.

“Carrying out the proposed works will not achieve the applicant’s stated goal of recreating a Seven Mile Beach-type experience in the Barkers area,” the experts stated in the review, and gave detailed scientific reasons why not and what would actually happen.

“The prevailing north-east winds which dominate November to April mean that the area will be subject to a direct onshore wind for much of the year. A direct onshore wind means that the water quality will be poor and dead seagrass and regular Sargassum beaching events will continually fill the excavated area,” the DoE warned.

“The site will be least suitable during the height of the tourism season, when north-east winds are most common and when an alternative to Seven Mile beach would be needed most,” the experts stated.

The review gives details of several previous attempts to remove turtle grass in other parts of Cayman and the subsequent beach erosion and ongoing problems decades after the removal.

In light of the minister’s comments on the radio Monday, a representative from the DoE told CNS that representatives from the department had only just met with Whittaker, the applicant, several hours after the minister’s appearance on For the Record. 

All of the issues in the review that was submitted to Cabinet, which is now a public document, were pointed out to Whittaker and representatives from the Dart Group, which owns the land where the long-time Seven Mile Beach bar owner is proposing to move to.

The DoE said that following the meeting, in which its experts explained why it was recommending that government refuse the application, the parties were going away to rethink the project, and the DoE had agreed to give feedback on any alternative ideas. At no point did the DoE state that it was working with Whitaker to make the project happen but that it had real concerns about the proposal.

In the review the DoE said there were many unanswered questions thrown up by the applicant, and although researchers at the department had approached him for more details before they completed the review, it appears that Whittaker did not respond.

The DoE pointed out that the application relates only to the removal of seagrass and not the rubble or calcareous algae found in large areas of the site with thin seagrass. The DoE said that both of these “are undesirable to a tourist who was expecting a Seven Mile Beach experience”.

The scientists further noted that the turtle grass beds and root mass overlay an immediate layer of bedrock that will not likely support an attractive sand layer or permit suitable depths for swimming and wading in the nearshore.

They also queried the very irregular shape of the proposed dredging area, which is based on 2013 aerial pictures, when recent drone imagery shows that the beds have changed since then, and it will be extremely difficult for the applicant to follow this plan.

The department also identified some serious technical challenges to the proposed project.

“The applicant has proposed to remove seagrass by hand or appropriate mechanical means. A site visit confirmed that, as is typical, the seagrass in this location has roots and rhizomes that can be up to 2 feet deep and very dense.

Cayman News Service

Seagrass acting as barrier to hold sand on the left together (Photo courtesy DoE, CLICK TO ENLARGE)

“It will therefore be difficult to remove by hand and heavy machinery will need to be used for most of the work,” the DoE said, noting that at a rough estimate, 350-500 fully laden 20-yard dump trucks will be required to remove the material.

“There are still many unknowns with respect to the land-side development associated with these works and this will likely serve as a ‘gateway’ project to further development in Barkers. As the proposed works will cause significant adverse impacts on the environment and will not succeed in creating the intended Seven Mile Beach experience, the Department of Environment does not believe that the proposals are justified nor that they will live up to the expectations of the developer or create the predicted economic benefits,” the DoE said in the summary of the report.

Listing a huge amount of potential damage the DoE said the project will not recreate the Seven Mile Beach experience or provide a high-quality tourism amenity but it will cause adverse effects to a protected area first established in 1986.

It will impact the habitat of conch and lobster, destroy live coral, cause beach erosion, affect the adjacent areas and the ability of the public to traverse the beach and use the unregistered beach access paths, and a high volume of tourists will impact a much wider area of Barkers and impact a turtle nesting beach.

While Whittaker is the applicant, as he is seeking a new home for his well-known bar ahead of his eviction next year by Dart from his current Seven Mile Beach location, his landlord is very supportive of the project.

Representatives from the Dart Group have been increasingly vocal in public forums about the need to develop Barkers and other beaches to alleviate the pressure from cruise tourism on Seven Mile Beach. While Dart has not yet made any specific applications about developing its land in Barkers directly, it is understood that it is keen to see it developed.

The encroachment of tourism development in the Barkers area, however, has not just alarmed the technical experts at the DoE but has created a backlash from the people of West Bay, who have been extremely vocal about their opposition to this project.

The ministry received one of the highest number of objections from residents against this project for a coastal works application, which included petitions and around 100 directed written submissions. Several public meetings also illustrated the depth of feeling the people in the district have about their connection to Barkers. 

Despite being earmarked by previous administrations as a national park, Barkers has never been lawfully protected as such. The National Conservation Council was able to protect some important pieces of land in the area under the conservation law but it does not include the beach areas.

But as the last remaining unspoiled beach on the western side of the island, the community has made it clear they want Barkers to stay exactly as it is.

See the full review of the application and other documents in the CNS Library

Listen to Episode One of the CNS podcast Listen Up! for more on the fight to keep Barkers untouched.

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

Comments (83)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    “the capital used to be Boddentown, that is very true but the Capital is now George Town, Spell and write properly.
    thank you. It is rude to do otherwise.

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    • Bertie : B says:

      Wow Really 4;24 , can you read a set of blueprints and build homes from the footings to the roof ? Some of us for many different reasons never got to finish school, my reason to help the family pay expenses so as the younger ones could finish school . So stick your arrogant Rude comment up your perfect intelligent a#$e

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  2. Anonymous says:

    That old piece of dead coral they be trying to save? Lol.

    CNS: The picture shown is live coral.

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  3. Anonymous says:

    Well what we have here is a project that the DoE has been able to say will not work for environmental reasons. The value of the environment there is a major factor but the environment itself will not allow a development of that type. The wind will bring driftwood, seagrass, other detritus, making the water unpleasant to swim in. Of course, the wind will also blow the hat off your head and the umbrella out of your drink. This was never a smart idea, the DoE has called it, time to move on.

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  4. Anonymous says:

    The plan proposed by Mr. Whittaker and backed by Dart has not been approved. They are in talks with the DoE to modify their proposal. Sounds like a step in the right direction.

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  5. Anonymous says:

    if you are not marine biologist or environmental expert…please stop posting.

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  6. Anonymous says:

    Dart wants the bar in Barkers to keep the locals away from his rich clients and his beach.

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  7. Anonymous says:

    Good to see progress!

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    • Anonymous says:

      I am wondering what is really going on in Caucus,/Cabinet? The Deputy Premier announced, prematurely I might add, that it look like the Barkers Bar was going through, but the Caucus sent it back to DOE. The Premier is also hinting and rightfully so, that there is a need to balance increasing investments/ infacture projects with the environment. ( not exactly his words but something along that line). That is a bit late, but better late than never. I am beginning to think that finally he is seeing the LIGHT.

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  8. Anonymous says:

    If it was up to the PPM they would get rid of d o e end natural resources because they don’t listen to them anyway

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  9. Anonymous says:

    Our beaches are our beaches for a reason. God, Nature or the Flying Spaghetti Monster with his noodly appendages willed it. Yes the Lions (or was it Rotary) came in and built the SMB public beach above the waterline but the beach below that is not of man’s make. Trying to replicate SMB in Barkers will be like Los Vegas’s battle to keep the desert out. If you stop for a moment those casinos and lighted streets will be covered in sand dunes. Same with Barkers, how long before you would have to dredge the grass again, how much flotsam and jetsam will have to be cleaned up every morning. As nice as some areas are in Cayman to swim, not all areas were made to be like SMB.

    PS. IT’S IN A F**KING REPLENISHMENT ZONE . If this is done what is to stop anyone from destroying marine parks because foreign money wants another SMB. Alden, Moses, Mac, please wake up form this waking dream you are in and see what you are doing to Cayman and for God’s sake stop it before it is really too late.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Keep your head in the sand. Let progress, progress.

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    • Anonymous says:

      You beg Alden, Moses and Mac as if they are tzars or feudals. Or dictators you are all intimidated by. They are your servants, not the other way around. Why won’t you get it! You can legally stop them. They might not meet Nicolae Ceaușescu fate, but they must be shaken to reality by legal means by “ we the people”.

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  10. Anonymous says:

    and this development will still be green-lighted just like every other development Dart wants

    This unity government has no regard for the environment or for the will of the people
    as they have shown time and time again

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    • Anonymous 2 says:

      Unfortunately most of our people also have no regard for the environment. If not we wouldn’t have so many dinosaurs in the LA. Remember we voted out persons such as Wayne Panton and Marco Archer – and voted in….well, pick almost anyone that’s in now and we’ll find someone who has no business in a position of leadership!

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      • Anonymous says:

        Marco heads up CSX but doesnt seem to be involved politically anymore. He wasnt just voted out. Alden ran Marco because he knew he (Alden) wouldnt beat Kenneth in GTC. So he ran Marco knowing Marco would lose and saved himself by running in an area where he knew he would win. I mean, who even ran against Alden? Don’t even recall their names. Strategical self preservation is what that was.

        Wayne is still very much leading. He is very involved in financing certain projects. He is Chairman of the Board of CIMA for crying out loud. He isnt an MLA but he has a very influential seat at the table.

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      • Anonymous says:

        The one time Mac should open his mouth there is silence. As for Tara and the Chuckster god forbid they would represent their constituents and West Bay.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Stop living in the victimhood. It is disgusting how docile people in the Cayman islands are.

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  11. Anonymous says:

    If it was up to DOE we would still be in thatch huts wearing wompas

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    • Anonymous says:

      With a retarded and myopic viewpoint such as that, they are probably right. Environmental vandalism will be these Islands downfall.

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      • Anonymous says:

        7:44 I agree, if it was up to DOE we would not be able to drive around in all these nice EXPENSIVE cars!

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    • Anonymous says:

      Anyone got a copy of this DOE Report? Is he trying live up to his biblical name and part the sea?

      CNS: As noted a the end of the article, you can follow the link to see it in the CNS Library. It is also on the DoE website.

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  12. Anonymous says:

    This is one of he main reasons why department of environment should not have any control of coastal licenses. They wouldn’t let anyone develop anything

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    • Anonymous says:

      They don’t. They send a report to Cabinet and Cabinet have sole authority to grant the CWL.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Obviously you have no clue what you’re talking about. DoE does not issue coastal licenses.

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    • Anonymous says:

      This is probably why were glad people like you don’t have the last word. Like the politicians, you know so little about what you are talking about its scary.

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  13. Anonymous says:

    “While Whittaker is the applicant, as he is seeking a new home for his well-known bar ahead of his eviction next year by Dart from his current Seven Mile Beach location, his landlord is very supportive of the project.”

    Of course Dart is very supportive of the project. Did Handel ever ask himself why so many of the apparently successful businesses in Camana Bay were gone after a few short years to be replaced by others? Word is that once a business becomes successful Papa Dart demands a huge cut and the original owners end up working for him.

    Do we really want to hear from Handel in 5 years time about how he was deceived by Dart?

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    • Anonymous says:

      Cafe del sol/Starbucks deal a perfect example.

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    • Anonymous says:

      5.17 you referring to the coffee shop at Camana Bay ?

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    • Anonymous says:

      DART takes 40% of your profit and thats after Vendor fees, insurance, rent etc etc. They even do your books. As the most recent example theres a question that answers itself; why was food and drink so expensive at KAABOO?

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      • Anonymous says:

        Cause it was a festival. That’s nothing new but don’t mind the facts. Also, are you suggesting dart does the books and takes most of any business in CBs earnings? You’re delusional if you think that’s the case. Just another misguided comment from the anti dart crowd.

        That being said I hope there is no turtle grass removed at barkers. I love it like it is.

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      • Anonymous says:

        No one forces any vendor to go to Camana Bay. You read your lease before setting up so why complain its expensive when you knew the deal you were getting. Everyone gets a minimum 5 year lease so its your own stupidity to complain later.

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      • Anonymous says:

        @1:43 pm- food and drinks are always expensive at festivals!! That has nothing to do w/ Dart and has always been the case.

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  14. Anonymous says:

    Does noone have the creativity to design something to build around the environment, and enhance it? Not just wipe everything out and build up….

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    • Johnny Be Good says:

      This has been the way here for years, lay waste to a piece of land and bring in concrete, steel and plant infested bush from Miami.

      Really, is anyone very surprised by all of this, it’s just on a grander scale and the man has unlimited resources to build. Especially when it comes to creating a concrete, Albert Speer like new mega capital on Grand Cayman.

      The new regime continues unabated, even if it goes against the people’s will. Soon we’ll be singing Cayman uber Alles….

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  15. Anonymous says:

    Ahh but the great Cayman Islands values profit more than its people and environment so this report is useless sadly. Cayman will continue to be bought and turned into a luxurious playground for tourists. When will we learn? when it’s too late ofc. Young caymananins I urge u to try n buy land and hang on to it for as long as u can. Land is far greater in value than any currency available.

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  16. Anonymous says:

    at last, some reasoned, educated commentary on the proposal… now let the experts discuss and decide.

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  17. Anonymous says:

    As much as I’d like to think the government or Dart will take note, they won’t and this report will end up in the trash. These people get they want regardless of the costs or implications. Chasing the quick buck at the expense of future generations. So sad and short-sighted.

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  18. Anonymous says:

    As much as I would like to think the government or Dart would take note, they won’t and the report will go in the trash because these people get what they want regardless of the cost or implications. It’s all the quick buck now at the expense of future generations. So short-sighted and sad.

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  19. Anonymous says:

    I don’t see the part in the DOE report about the wanton destruction of marine life in the turtle grass by the horses trampling through it daily. Page must have got cut off accidentally.

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    • Anonymous says:

      LOL Not really removal of acres of it though huh?
      I’m not sure how horses or even fishermen walking through it is going to destroy it. But on ya go whiner.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Bit of a difference between riding horses through it vs Ripping everything out and developing there. False equivalency.

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    • Anonymous says:

      What a foolish comment…. Speaks magnitudes of your intellect.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Oh, look, was that a red herring I just saw swim by?

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      • Anonymous says:

        No, it was a steaming pile of horse turd, smothering the coral heads.

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        • Anonymous says:

          As opposed the damage in removing 4 acres of it? Must be a pretty big horse turd – nearly as big a pile of turds as the spoutings of the government on the need for a “strong DOE”

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  20. Anonymous says:

    Removal of 4 acres of turtle grass is environmentally irresponsible. Destroying the environment for the greed of a few at the cost of the many is wrong.

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    • Anonymous says:

      This is another waste of money, just get that old crappy grass out of there Mr. Dart as we need the place developed. Fire this DOE bunch as they are jokers!

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  21. Anonymous says:

    DOE report is trash. Full of unsubstantiated opinions well beyond the bounds of their remit. Put it on the landfill with the rest of them.

    Build our Bar!

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    • Anonymous says:

      You’re an idiot! Would you mind letting us know who you are? Then maybe we can consider taking your comment with drop of seriousness. Who in the world tries to anonymously discredit a report coming from a credible source?

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    • Anonymous says:

      Obviously if you even bothered to read the Report you did not understand a work of it. Cool-add drinker

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    • Anonymous says:

      DART sponsored commenters trying to sway public opinion.

      We see through your BS

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      • Anonymous says:

        I think it’s more nefarious than that; This sounds like the same troll that posts on nearly every story, taking the most contrary positions.

        I think they do it merely for the LOLZ. Watch for this, and you will notice the pattern.

        The best way to deal with a troll is to not feed them. I think this person gets their jollies from our outrage, and if we had basements, they would be posting from inside one, wearing only their underwear.

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    • Anonymous says:

      If the government is happy to push for the removal of coral and sacrifice Georgetown Harbour for this precious cruise terminal then they sure aren’t going to care about what happens in Barkers.

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