PACT supports bid to start EWA without EIA

| 27/04/2023 | 180 Comments
Minister Jay Ebanks in parliament on Thursday

(CNS): A private member’s motion by McKeeva Bush MP (WBW) in parliament Thursday was accepted by the government in a unanimous vote that could see work start on the East-West Arterial extension immediately, even though the premier didn’t appear to support the proposal.

Planning and Infrastructure Minister Jay Ebanks, who is responsible for roads, offered his backing to the motion, saying that an environmental impact assessment for the stretch of the proposed road between Hurst Road and Lookout Gardens wasn’t needed.

Less than 24 hours after Premier Wayne Panton had, in his Strategic Policy Statement, talked about the importance of government doing projects the right way, it appears his PACT colleagues are willing to risk building a significant part of the road without understanding the impact it could have on flooding and other environmental issues on the surrounding area.

While the motion does not propose cancelling the entire EIA, it calls for the government to start the road right away from Hurst Road in Newlands through to Lookout Gardens in Bodden Town without the critical EIA, which will be the focus of the final phase of the road through to Frank Sound only.

During the contentious debate, Panton said he didn’t have a problem with the motion because the historical “kicking the can down the road” on this issue had led to understandable frustrations on the part of the people suffering in traffic.

But clearly caught between a political rock and a hard place, and facing a stand against him by his own PACT MPs on both the front and back benches, Panton indicated that he was only willing to push the civil servants who, he implied, had been dragging their feet on the EIA.

But he did not say he was willing to stop the process, despite voting in favour of Bush’s motion asking for the government to do just that for the next phase of the road through Savannah and Lower Valley. The premier said that he had been told by the National Conservation Council (NCC) that the EIA was necessary for the full road.

Government can and does accept motions all the time without acting on them, given they can only ever ask any government to consider a proposition rather than compel it to actually do what is proposed. But the vote to accept this motion has enormous symbolism. Several members of the front bench offered their wholehearted support to the proposal, especially Ebanks, Labour Minister Dwayne Seymour and Tourism Minister Kenneth Bryan, who all want to see the road start now.

Bryan said he was not going to allow the motion to be ignored, and he would be driving this forward. The government had to override the National Conservation Council because all residents east of George Town wanted the road done immediately, he said. Voters should call their representatives to tell them they want the road now, and if they don’t get it, then they “know what they gotta do”, he added.

Although this stretch of the road doesn’t go through the Central Mangrove Wetlands, that unique environmental habitat is a basin and an interconnected system that will be impacted by development. Given the sensitivity of the route, experts have previously told CNS that this highway cannot be “sliced and diced”, and the need for an EIA ahead of the entire project is based on the need to understand the broad impacts along its full length.

This stretch also passes through the Savannah Gully and the Lower Valley water lens. Constructing a road without understanding its full impact is likely to lead to some major problems relating to potential flooding. Expert assessments have already indicated this highway could prove extremely problematic and will require substantial and costly mitigation.

In his response to the motion, which was originally proposed by Seymour before he was promoted to Cabinet, the planning minister said he was offering his “full support to this motion”, which asks for the road to commence immediately without an EIA.

Ebank said it was about improving the quality of life by reducing commute times and letting people have the extra hour in bed. He said there was no need for an EIA as the NRA knew what it needed to know about this stretch, and there were no mangroves along the way.

The minister railed against the National Conservation Council Board and said it should not have the right to block the government from getting a road done and that if necessary, the law needed to be changed.

The requirement for EIAs for projects such as this was part of the National Conservation Law, a hard-fought piece of legislation passed by Ebanks’ boss, Wayne Panton, when he was environment minister. But Ebanks said it was “not a perfect law” because the NCC should not be allowed to block the “highest people in the land”.

Ebanks, despite being a Cabinet member with collective responsibility on policy, said he was an independent member and was “no yes man”.

“I am not a PACT member, I am a member of the PACT Government,” Ebanks said in defiance of the premier’s policy position on the need for an EIA for the entire length of the road. But Ebanks said that if others did not want to work with him anymore, he did not have to hitch a lift as his car was parked right outside.

Although the premier accepted the motion, it was evident he was not in support of its basic premise. The debate also exposed a huge gap between some members of Cabinet and Panton’s science-based position and commitment to execute projects properly to avoid the ‘ready, fire, aim’ approach to past projects that have had terrible environmental consequences.

The premier reminded his colleagues that nature does not need us but that we need nature, but nevertheless led the vote in support of the motion, which, if adopted, would place homes, the community and the natural environment at serious risk.

See the proceedings on CIGTV below:

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Category: development, Local News

Comments (180)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Isn’t minster for roads the MP for northside? So he has a vested interest in keeping his votes from his landowner voters. This should be looked into?

  2. Anon says:

    The question that many of you should be asking is; who will be benefiting from this the most? The people sitting in traffic or the owners of the land that the new road will go through. Bet you the majority of that land is now owned by a subset of people that have had their hand in the cookie jar for some time now.

    Maybe a FOI request is needed regarding land purchased in those areas from the inception of the idea of the east-west idea. Cause we all know, conflict of interest in the country seems to be a popular thing.

    Regardless, this is for money and/or votes. two heads of the same snake..smh. people preparing for a recession lol

  3. Anonymous says:

    Happy eastern commuter here 🙂 Thanks PACT!

  4. Squealer says:

    People are expecting too much. This is, after all, a land where the Govt built a new admin bldg and then simply abandoned the old one next door. I mean just left it there to rot. And it’s not like they can’t see it. It’s right next door. They can read the graffiti messages inscribed on the dusty glass without even squinting.

  5. Anonymous says:

    The abuse of power by the NCC/DOE is very reaI as it relates to the EIA process and their issuing of directives. I should add however that this particular project is not necessarily one for which they are overstepping.

    Parliament needs to focus on rectifying the bigger picture issues here.

  6. His final twitch says:

    The last road this MP negotiated was to give away our public beach.
    What’s it this time rotten Mac?

  7. I agree with 1132 building more roads is NOT the answer.Cut back on car imports and introduce a PROPER bus service for crying out loud.Maybe make it a free service and maybe that will encourage people to use it.
    Unfortunately Caymanians do not like change and herein lies part of the problem.Every member of a household owning a car would not want to give that up and do car sharing which would certainly cut back on crowded roads.We are running out of time re rising tides flooding etc.Doing that extension will only make things worse in the long run.
    Marriot hotel is another good example of bad decisions being made to allow the patio and pool to be built that close to the water and for what?

  8. Anonymous says:

    Tolerating habitual lying by half-wit politicians is identical to participating in it. Are you a blind sheep strolling off the cliff or will you ask them WHY??

  9. Causeway across north sound is the more sensible solution run it from north of the landfill straight across which will create the best flow and balance, similar to 7 mile bridge key west.

  10. Anonymous says:

    So if we wait another 2-10 years for an environmental impact study to be done are we getting some kind of guarantee that we won’t have any flooding? If not, how much risk reduction are we talking about for the price of obstructionism?

    To tell the truth, I prefer gov grift and getting something done as opposed to green grift scams that only line the pockets of “experts” and satisfy the fantasies of narcissistic control freaks. The lesser of 2 insidious evils.

    • Anonymous says:

      Will it be a hotel, gas station, apartments, or houses?

    • Anonymous says:

      EIA would be long finished if Alden had done it when he promised seven years ago.

    • Anonymous says:

      Guarantee? No. But much more information that allows us to take a sensible and logical risk-based approach. Also, the EIA process does not take that long.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Why are NRA working on the EWA widening at night .. is it because of the overtime they are being paid?
    When is the Roads law going to be updated?
    When are landowners going to be compensated in a timely manner?
    When are NRA going to finish the roads they have already started?

  12. Anonymous says:

    Did people really expect Wayne to take a stand? Havent we figured him out yet ? All talk no action! He is useless!

  13. Anonymous says:

    If this road needs an EIA then more so should other projects that are being built by the people with money that are being passed without one. Which is even more detremental to our environment.

    • Anonymous says:

      DoE/NCC can give a million recommendations and politicians and higher ups in the civil service will ignore it if it doesn’t benefit their pockets or alliances for power.

      How many times do we have to go through the same failures in the name of expediency? Really look at the end results of numerous recommendations that have were ignored.

  14. Anonymous says:

    build this road for wotes and money for the inner circle of the corruption in government (CIG). everyone will still be stuck in the same traffic at some point and you will not save any time on your commute, but that’s just common sense. We need traffic enforcement on the road everywhere and then we will have an easier commute. The amount of cars that speed to cut into a lane last minute are a huge factor in causing traffic issues. especially leading to hurleys roundabout.

  15. Anonymous says:

    After “She is supported” why are people still surprised when Wayne says he supports the environment then votes against it. The one thing you can rely on Wayne to support is his remaining the Premier, irrespective of the other ideals that have to be abandoned to get there.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Building a road means there will be more cars on the road in that area because when the land is cleared more development will be built so that won’t solve the problem. A better bus system could work, staggered hours of work, remote work, private schools bussing, etc. However, these Ministers don’t want to upset certain people so they keep getting elected rather than doing what is best for the whole country, they do what is best for them to collect their paycheck.


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