Analysis of alternative routes for EWA underway

| 04/03/2024 | 16 Comments
NRA staffer and consultant scientist out in the field along the proposed route of the EWA extension

(CNS): The National Roads Authority has created a website explaining the environmental impact assessment process for the controversial East-West Arterial Road extension. Officials said the site, Your EIA in action, provides information to the public about the EIA, such as why it is being conducted and what topics it is studying.

According to the site, those involved in the project are currently going through a phase called “Alternatives Analysis”, which is a critical step as the proposed route cuts through the heart of the Central Mangrove Wetlands and has raised significant concerns for environmental activists.

This puts the integrity of this critical habitat at risk by splitting a continuous stretch of natural carbon sink and threatening the flora and fauna and the eco-services provided by the untouched wetland. In addition, building the road through this area would pose a huge flood risk and require a costly feat of engineering.

The alternatives analysis stage was updated and made more robust in the draft Terms of Reference last summer as a result of the public consultation process and because viable alternatives have been suggested by environmental groups and others over the years.

Additional East-West corridors within the EIA Study Area are being evaluated to determine which best meets the critical success factors of the project with the least environmental damage, the NRA stated in a press release about the site.

However, there is no guarantee that the Cayman Islands Government will deviate from the original route whatever the findings of the EIA because the results of this document are not binding. The EIA is meant to guide the CIG to the best solution but it does not mean the UPM has to abide by the recommendations, and despite the luke warm public opinion about this road, the current administration supports and is committed to the costly project.

The original route remains controversial because of the negative environmental impact and the risk of flooding it could cause to existing Bodden Town homes.

Nevertheless, some commuters living in the furthest parts of the Eastern Districts are in favour of the extension to cut their driving time into town, while others are in favour because of the opportunity for tourism businesses in the eastern parts of Grand Cayman providing trips to cruise passengers.

But the backing for this project comes mostly from landowners in the area because it will open up land around the road for more development and profit, despite the additional traffic, environment and infrastructure challenges that will cause.

Many people do not see the extension as a real solution to the traffic congestion. A point raised at public meetings and in other forums is that it will merely reduce the time it takes for residents in East End and North Side to hit the traffic congestion closer to town, given that the real problem is at Grand Harbour and the eastern side of George Town.

An efficient public transport system, the staggering of working hours, school buses for all schools and car pooling lanes are all ideas that have been suggester to reduce the need for this road. But NRA Managing Director Edward Howard is a strong advocate for the project.

“The EWA is more than just a road extension,” he said. “It’s the optimal solution to enhance connectivity between the eastern and western sides of our island, lay the foundation for future sustainable development in Grand Cayman and improve the resilience of our road infrastructure during natural disasters.” 

Its not clear what sustainable development Howard is talking about as developing in the wetlands is completely unsustainable.

“The EIA is a required step in the EWA’s development process. It is also best practice and commonplace in many other developed countries around the world. The EWA EIA does not make decisions but does provide decision-makers in Cayman with the best information to balance the needs of Caymanian families and residents with sustainable development and environmental conservation,” he said. 

The EIA will evaluate all of the impacts on a wide range of features, including transport and mobility, natural flora and fauna habitats, hydrology and drainage, and socio-economic and cultural elements. The new website aims to inform the public about the study and dispel misinformation on what it is studying and why. It will also act as the portal for regular updates on the EIA as work progresses.

“The new website resource is important because it was very clear that the general public wanted more and accurate information on the EIA and what it is looking at. The website explains the EIA process, what it is studying and shows the work in progress,” Howard stated.

“Visitors to the website can get a clear understanding of the numerous areas of study that are being evaluated including, ‘Cultural and Natural Heritage, ‘Socio-economic impact’, ‘Noise and vibration’ and ‘Transport and mobility’. These are things that impact all Caymanians and residents so, it’s important for people to fully understand what is being studied and why,” he added.

The EIA document will eventually be made public, enabling the public to see what the experts have recommended, what the likely consequences are of building this road, and the price to be paid financially and in natural resources. This will allow residents to hold government accountable to the results of the assessments and ensure that everything that can be done is done to avoid destroying the wetlands.

MPs, including ministers, have criticised former premier and sustainability minister Wayne Panton as well as the Department of Environment, which has been wrongly accused of delaying the project. However, the DoE has explained that the process has dragged on, not because of its own actions but because of delays with the NRA’s own hydrology reports.

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

Comments (16)

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  1. Al Catraz says:

    “lay the foundation for future sustainable development”

    Or, build another road, inducing demand for more car travel and outstripping traffic projections due to the induced demand for more car trips. Sustainable. It’s just a word thrown around by people who really don’t bother to find out what it means.

  2. Big Spenders says:

    Poor Cayman. Attempting 100 year old solutions in 2024.

    That’s how long it took Florida to figure out that putting a highway through a natural drainage area was not the best idea.

    Might as well start a new airport in the swamp too. And then abandon it. Oh wait, y’all did that already over on Little Cayman.

    Nothing better that having government money to waste.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Identify the “bebeficial owners’ of the land adjoining the proposed route.

    Some famous political names will be revealed.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Why don’t they finish the roads they have already started?

  5. Anonymous says:

    I’m sure they’ll do whatever means the snobs can get the the Mandarin Oriental, yet another atrocity in the making with one of the best beaches in Cayman going to end up unusable by residents.

  6. Nautical-one345 says:

    EIA yes, but the road needs to be built. The current ribbon of a road through Bodden Town is too narrow and unsafe for the volume of daily traffic on a good day, and of little to no use with an accident or storm / hurricane weather as there is no alternate route in most areas. Just elevate / bridge the road where needed!

  7. Anonymous says:

    We are so lost. CIG will spend tens of millions to create a way for East-enders to get to the chokepoints more rapidly, and only for the low, low cost of a pristine section of irreplaceable woodland.

    Initial consequences will be hundreds of underpaid expats and their cheap cars on the roads. Some already rich Caymanians will get richer, and the divide between the wealthy foreigners and the rest of us will widen.

    Take the same money and build a light rail system with park-and-ride lots, and/or build reliable, comfortable public transportation and save the island.

    Here’s another idea – just spitballing — how about requiring Caymanian-owned construction companies to hire at least 50% Caymanians to work on these projects? GASP!! What a crazy idea!!

  8. There is no planet B says:

    The proposed EWA road extension is ecocide!

  9. MP says:

    Great to see the NRA make some progress on the EIA after dithering for 9+ years

    Looking forward to that Options Analysis – just looking at the map is a good ‘gut feeling’ guide:

    Alternative B1 seems unacceptable due to the spurs that cut the Mastic Trail and the Mastic Reserve – honestly surprised it made it to a shortlist.

    Both B1 and B3 have cuts through the Central Mangrove Wetland – needs a cost/hydro assessment to work out if that is even viable. But another strike against B1.

    B4… well, depends what they are actually proposing there? I don’t think that there enough space by the road to widen it much! And that’s without getting into getting the land into NRA ownership as it runs through Bodden town or anywhere else.

    So, just a top down assessment, B2 looks like a clear winner – dodging the most sensitive sites, meeting the objectives of connecting Bodden Town, potentially brings the north end of Midland Acres into use as an access point. Biggest risk looks to be wear and tear from the quarry trucks, but those trucks have to drive somewhere.

    Look forward to seeing the stats on drive time savings, impact on travel cost, road user numbers, and how they stack up to the different alternative project costs!

  10. Anonymous says:

    road should only be built if part of an overall sustainable development plan for the island which stops/limits commuting from eastern districts into gt.
    nothing more to be said.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Still best to go under the North Sound.

    • Anonymous says:

      You trust the people that can’t even build bog standard roads to an actual standard to build a bloody tunnel?

      Ain’t many people going to take the risk driving under that lit fuse regardless of how much time they save.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Build the road yesterday

  13. Anonymous says:

    Legalize marijuana and the import of weapons will drop drastically. People are not doing gun smuggling trips. They are doing drug smuggling trips and just bringing guns back since they are already there and available. Legalizing marijuana will reduce the demand, reduce the smuggling and reduce importation of firearms.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Bread and Circuses


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