Road threatens hundreds of acres of pristine habitat

| 10/03/2022 | 141 Comments
Proposed road with Protected Areas and Central Mangrove Wetlands

(CNS): Plans for a ten-mile long, 160ft wide stretch of multi-lane highway that will extend the East West Arterial from Woodland Drive to Frank Sound Road will see the removal of more than 174 acres of undisturbed habitat. If the road goes ahead it poses a threat to more pristine natural environment as it traverses across wetlands and forest.

The National Roads Authority has now issued an invitation for experts to conduct an environmental impact assessment for the controversial road that is plagued with environmental problems.

This EIA will review the second and third sections of this road, and the selected consultant will assist the National Roads Authority in determining where alignment-shifts or other refinements would benefit the project by eliminating, minimising or mitigating environmental resource impact.

“A key objective of the EIA is to ensure that the road design selected offers the best outcome for the environment as well as for surrounding communities,” the documents posted on the government’s procurement website state.

But this project is fraught with potential environmental challenges, posing a direct threat to the pristine habitat that will be destroyed to make way for the asphalt highway, as well as to the freshwater lens and the surrounding wetlands.

The road extension will dissect the Central Mangrove Wetlands, described as the ecological heart of Grand Cayman, and will pose a new flood risk to many communities, which will be exacerbated by sea-level rise. It will also release a significant amount of carbon currently sequestered deep inside the peat soil occupied by the various mangrove species.

It poses a threat to endemic and native flora and fauna, including endangered and culturally important species, such as the Cayman parrot and many other birds.

The direct impacts from the construction and the indirect post-construction impacts, such as noise, vibration, lighting and air quality, along the highway will also be important factors for consideration.

The alignment options for some areas of the road will also be critical, especially relating to the primary forest habitat around the Mastic Trail, land which belongs to the National Trust, the DoE said in a recent scoping document about the proposed project.

The proposed route could see the Central Mangrove Wetland deprived of water, “resulting in adverse ecological consequences associated with the fundamental disruption to the hydrological regime that supports” the wetland.

If the water cannot flow to this critical area of wetland, it could then flood populated areas to the south of the proposed road, which over an extended period of time would kill mangrove areas on that side of the highway, as they would be unable to survive excessive inundation, the DoE experts warned.

The DoE’s scoping exercise also examined the broad justifications given by the NRA for the road. This is to improve traffic flow from the Eastern Districts and provide an alternative route to the coast road, and even more controversially, to open up the central areas for more development.

The EIA is expected to direct the project towards the most environmentally friendly route but the assessment will also include a review of the ‘do nothing scenario’.

As part of the EIA process, the public will be invited to take part and the consultants will be expected to hold public meetings. However, following what appears to be the third and final attempt by the NRA to open the bidding, after two previous tenders were removed from the website, Planning Minister Jay Ebanks, who is responsible for roads and infrastructure, along with representatives for the NRA will be hosting a public meeting in Ebanks’ North Side constituency this evening, Thursday 10 March, at 7:30pm.

See the documents and image showing possible alternative routes in the CNS Library

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Category: development, Local News

Comments (141)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Has it been considered that this road will not only open up land for development (yay possible additional housing) but also redistribute the population further East and therefore compounding the traffic issue?

    I’m thinking this plan is contradicting itself…

  2. Anonymous says:

    I have breadfruit, star fruit, mangoes, bottlers, eggplant, advocadoes, ackee, gold peppers, green peppers, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, guava, cho-cho, limes, string beans, okra, plums etc,etc. Plus trees. I am not an environmentalist idiot. Build the road you don’t need an EIA. Its a waste of time. If you want to protect anything BUY IT. If you don’t have the money, grow it. Stop trying to tell landowners what they can do with their property. When the country bulds the road into the largest piece of swampland in Grand Cayman we will lose billions of mosquitoes that can kill human life. We will have the cheapest land to build apartments, and houses on. I have sold my swamp. I have nothing to gain except a faster route to Health City. D

  3. Anonymous says:

    If the wetlands are destroyed by this road, we will not be able to restore them. There will be no coming back from this. I hope this is taken seriously.

    We are long past due a proper national flood management plan.
    Decades of piecemeal legislation and massive development have left many areas susceptible to flooding. This road will likely do the same.
    Current laws only mandate that a development must be able to prove it can deal with runoff on its own property, not taking into consideration the surrounding areas, which are often significantly lower, having been built years prior, causing water to runoff to those areas. We need a plan that takes the entire island into consideration.
    As soon as you remove natural vegetation, you have removed the ability for water to drain correctly. Then you fill the area, and compact that material to create a fairly non-porous substrate, adding to the drainage woes. Of course developments need to be properly done, but there has to be a better way.
    Side-note:We need to get away from our ridiculous ‘need’ to get rid of native vegetation, then paving over areas, and planting non-native species. Native plants sustain native fauna, and are pest-, drought-, and storm-resistant. We all need to do more to nurture our unique wildlife. Each yard/development can become a safe habitat if done correctly, but would also necessitate dropping the routine use of chemicals.

    The addition of this road will certainly help the residents of the Eastern districts, but we all still bottleneck at Grand Harbour. It will be interesting to see how the current roadworks alleviate traffic at that roundabout.

    • Jonathan Adam says:

      The solution to the bottleneck at Hurley’s roundabout is an overpass. It is the one and the only solution which will allow the free flow of traffic, regardless of the direction of traffic east to west or west to east dependent upon morning or evening rush hour. This reality is blatantly apparent and obvious to anyone with their eyes open and/or who is not beholden to the hypocritical/conceited/farcical/inequitable agenda of supposed environmentalists and their charlatan lobbies who in all reality are anything but that which they seek to portray themselves as. The same goes for those who stroke their egos/advertizement campaigns by “sponsoring” roundabouts and/or those who do not wish to see a gravy train of constant road restructuring be stopped. The concept of do it once and do it right is not beyond the mental capacity of said people, it is the result of a preponderance of greed, hubris, conceit and a purposeful ignoring of any given semblance of foresight, to say nothing of common sense. Beyond that, is better for one to simply leave to the mists of the ether the reason why said solution has not been implemented. The amount of public funds which has been squandered on the incessant reworking of said intersectional piece of roadway could have long ago paid for an overpass paved with carrera marble and guilded with solid gold side rails. Unless and until there is a paradigm shift which contends with a status quo devoid of any real and/or tangible accountability to the well being and the interests of the Cayman Islands and her people, then this shit show reminiscent of a twilight zone of profligate horsepuckery is now and shall remain a foregone conclusion.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Ever since the DOE didn’t require an EIA for the Grand Hyatt project, I have no faith in them whatsoever.

    • Anonymous says:

      The EIA for the new road to serve the Eastern districts will state…

      “Enhances the well being of thousands who have suffered hours sitting in traffic , trying to get their children to school on time then get to work”.

      Can you think of a better outcome..?

  5. Anonymous says:

    Where is the feasibility study?

    Questions that need to be addressed as part of the study work, are:

    1. Given the assessment of current and future performance of the Bypass, and lack of surrounding local transport network, are there specific priority locations/problems that should be addressed?

    2. Are there viable potential solutions to these problems which are deliverable, affordable and offer value for money?

    3. What are the potential timescales for the delivery of identified potential solutions?

    4. Are there additional benefits or impacts from combinations of potential solutions over and above those for individual solutions?

    5. Is there evidence of the impact of investment in potential solutions on the resilience of the road network?

    6. Have the potential solutions identified fully considered and optimised the environmental opportunities and mitigation that the potential transport investment could bring?

    7. Is further work/analysis required for Government to be able to make specific investment decisions, and if so what are the timescales of such work?

    These questions should be addressed by completing the study objectives.

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