Bid reveals environmental threats from airport projects

| 10/05/2024 | 58 Comments
Expansion projects Cayman Islands airports, Cayman News Service
Tourism Minister Kenneth Bryan with picture showing outline of proposed runway extension at ORIA

(CNS): The Cayman Islands Airport Authority has opened a bid for consultants to draw up terms of reference for environmental impact assessments of proposed changes at the three airports. The CIAA has unveiled ambitious and controversial plans for the redevelopment of the airports, all of which pose significant environmental threats. The bid is focused on finding experts to conduct EIAs of proposals to expand the runway at the Owen Roberts International Airport on Grand Cayman, widen the Charles Kirkconnell International Airport on Cayman Brac, and move the Edward Bodden Airfield on Little Cayman,

Regardless of the environmental challenges they pose to the marine and terrestrial environments, officials said in the procurement documents that these three projects, all part of the 2041 Master Plan, have been classified as priorities.

The CIAA has said that the runway extension at ORIA is needed to meet market demand for long-haul flights, though there are concerns that this demand has been exaggerated. The project calls for a 340-metre extension and a 240-metre end safety area runway into the North Sound, which has serious environmental implications.

On Cayman Brac, the regulatory need to widen that runway by 75 metres will encroach on the Westerly Ponds on the south side of the runway.

However, the most controversial plan is the relocation of the airfield on Little Cayman, where the CIAA has dismissed a number of alternative solutions and has opted for the airfield to be relocated onto CIAA-owned undeveloped land in the centre of the island. The plan faces significant objections from residents, who do not want the airfield to change and fear that having a certified airport will only put the whole of this precious natural island at risk.

The National Conservation Council has determined that EIAs are needed for all three projects before they can proceed. The Department of Environment submitted scoping opinions in August last year and the NCC formed an Environment Assessment Board to guide the process.

In its review of the ORIA runway expansion proposal, the DoE warned of the environmental threats posed by the project.

“The utilization of larger planes and a potentially increased volume of flights comes with a risk of an impact to air quality, primarily due to the emissions,” the DoE said. “Major pollutants released by aircraft engines include nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulfur oxides (SOx), particulate matter, carbon monoxide, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Larger planes typically have more powerful engines, and require engines to operate at higher power levels during take-off and landing.”

Residents around ORIA will be affected by noise and vibration during the construction and operation of the airport, which also has the potential to cause structural damage to their homes. Construction will involve dredging, filling, earthwork and grading, all dependent on heavy equipment, which will cause disturbances for nearby residents, tourists and wildlife.

The DoE warned that if air traffic increases in size and quantity, this could, over time, lead to various health concerns such as annoyance, sleep disturbance and stress to residents living nearby, as well as reduce property values and disturb the overall quality of life for those in the surrounding area.

Pushing the runway into the North Sound will curtail all recreational water activity in the area for residents living on the shoreline and ruin the views for some luxury condo owners. The mangrove buffer will be lost, not only by changing the natural aesthetics of the coastline and altering water views but also by increasing the vulnerability of a large number of nearby residential properties to flooding and storm surges.

“The extension of the runway into the North Sound may alter wave patterns and increase vulnerability of the surrounding area to erosion. Changes in the coastline can affect the natural buffering capacity of the shoreline against wave action,” the DoE warned, noting that the runway itself would be vulnerable to damage from extreme weather events such as hurricanes.

Around 44 acres of benthic habitat, including seagrass beds, have already been reduced because of surrounding development. These beds complement the mangroves, providing a healthy ecosystem for marine life and helping to protect and stabilise the coastline. However, there is also a significant threat of major water pollution and its adverse consequences for marine life in the area.

All of these threats will need to be weighed against the position of the Ministry of Tourism and Ports, which has oversight of the airports, and CIAA that the extension is justified economically, though the Outline Business Case for the airports made no case at all for the runway extension.

Meanwhile, on Cayman Brac the main environmental threat is to the ponds and wildlife. Although the ponds are no longer animal sanctuaries, they are frequently used by birds. The site also contains habitat used by Sister Islands rock iguanas, a protected species. “These Iguanas are critically endangered and found nowhere else in the world but Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, and may be impacted by the construction and operation of the runway,” the DoE said.

The filling of the ponds during the widening project will permanently alter the habitat, and the management of birds with the use of lethal control during airport operations is already a concern.

“Many bird species rely on ponds and wetlands as stopover points during migration,” the DoE scoping opinion noted. “Eliminating these resting and foraging areas can disrupt migration patterns, leading to exhaustion and decreased survival rates, eventually leading to a decline in biodiversity. The filling of the ponds, combined with the very limited extent of remaining wetland habitat on Cayman Brac, has the potential to amplify these impacts.”

The work would also negatively affect nesting iguanas. Clearing the vegetation and preparing the site would disrupt nests and interfere with nesting behaviour, while pollution and runoff could affect soil and water quality. The expansion would also bring the runway closer to a sea turtle nesting beach that is proposed as a critical nesting habitat. It would also be closer to Channel Bay and West End, two marine reserves with coral reefs and nearshore seagrass beds.

Other protected species that would likely be impacted by the works are fish, sea urchins, lobsters and sponges. Run-off associated with construction has the potential to impact the marine environment through turbidity, causing stress to organisms through smothering. Construction of the runway would involve earthwork and grading and the installation of drainage systems. These alterations could change the natural drainage patterns of the area. If not properly managed, these changes have the potential to result in increased stormwater runoff, erosion, flooding and sedimentation of nearby water bodies.

The construction of a new airport on Little Cayman presents a catalogue of problems, and the DoE has said it is important that the EIA cover alternative options to the current relocation proposal. The site consists of dry shrubland, seasonally flooded mangroves and some man-modified areas.

It is also adjacent to the Booby Pond Nature Reserve and Rookery, designated as a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention. This is home to one of the largest breeding colonies of red-footed boobies (Sula sula) in the Caribbean, comprising at least 30% of the total regional population and the only breeding colony in the Cayman Islands.

Check CNS later today for a separate report on the extensive environmental problems noted by the DoE if the airport project on Little Cayman goes ahead.

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Comments (58)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I think he used his favourite Sharpie to draw that.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Take a cold hard look at the new Cayman. Too expensive, not much to do, town overrun by cheap cruisers, roads jammed with tour buses, unreliable overpriced taxi service, Jamaican higglers on the beach, not a Caymanian in sight, rude Jamaicans, Indian jewelry sales pushers. After one visit why would they come back? We’ll only have condo owners paying repeat visits.

    Tourism also does far more damage to Cayman than good. Covid was a blessing in showing how people should change to a different sector. It is insane to petulantly demand the destruction of Cayman for *everyone* merely to satiate the greed of a tiny minority of politicians taking kickbacks from developers (see Wendy’s superb September 2023 editorial:, and a small number of Caymanians working in the sector. Most people in the sector are the ‘imported poverty’ of comments section fame: primarily Jamaicans.

    Cruise tourists are pests, who further clog up the island, and make life for residents a nightmare. The industry can’t collapse fast enough.

    There’s also no business case for long haul tourist flights from anywhere else to bring in more stay over tourists, because:

    1. Those flights will be more expensive than existing warm weather options, so tourists won’t be interested.

    2. Cayman is already too expensive for most tourists, in large part because a bloated, incompetent and corrupt CIG and civil service/de facto welfare scheme are funded by 20%/22% import taxes on everything entering.

    3. Cayman is now a [far] more expensive version of Miami. If tourists want that, they can go to Miami; if they want undeveloped islands, there are cheaper options. Cayman should forget tourism, and focus on increasing offshore work. The government hasn’t screwed that up yet (but with the increases in fees, beneficial ownership changes, and lack of competitiveness with Dubai, Singapore, etc. it’s on track to do so).

    What would be worthwhile, is reintroducing early and late flights to Miami, therefore enabling people to travel to different destinations in the US in a single day rather than forcing them into multiple days of travel. Obviously, this doesn’t pander to Kenny-the-Moron’s ego or inbred politicians’ desperate desire to buy wotes, and so will never be adopted. Plus ça change…

  3. Anonymous says:

    As a tourist destination in the Caribbean. Cayman (sorry to say it) has very little to offer. We have one really nice beach… most island nations have countless really nice beaches. Corrupt MLAs have ruined even that beach with Jamaican higglers. We have no mountains or jungles or waterfalls or any of that stuff. We have very little truly local food or cultural experiences to speak of. We don’t have anything cheap/affordable.

    What we have that people like is as follows:
    Easy to get to
    No hagglers on the beach

    – The diving is getting worse each year because the reef keeps dying.

    – Safety is getting worse every day for the roads and criminals. We’ve now had a mass shooting which garnered international press.

    – It’s not as easy to get here as it used to be and getting home without overnight in Miami is increasingly difficult.

    – Salespeople on the damn beaches now.

    Our product even from 2019 until now is vastly inferior to what it was in 2019. In many ways it is becoming inferior to our competitors and will continue to do so.

    Crackhead Kenny has no vision of any real value – indeed, is of not value himself – and needs to go.

  4. SKEPTICAL says:

    When. Laughing boy can come up with ideas like flights to Barbados (Dead after 6 months) why would anybody give any credibility to any of his ideas – Kenny just likes seeing his photograph in the local Press.

  5. Anonymous says:

    This didn’t even mention the crazy new private jet terminal. For which a fee will be added to every ticket for flights leaving the regular terminal (ie Cayman Airways, American, etc). Who in their right mind thinks this makes sense?

  6. Anonymous says:

    There are only a few self serving driftwood expats objecting to the much needed airport in little cayman. To get a flight there you have to book a month in advance, so we can imagine what it will be like in 7years time when the new airport is scheduled to open.

    • Anonymous says:

      “Show me the the money”, in other words, show the proof of
      your month to get a booking. It’s people like you who shouldn’t get a “booking” to travel there. Besides, why would you even want to go, if your proposal is to ultimately destroy it!!

      This is no driftwood and neither do I live there. I have generations behind me and I truly hope none of them include you.

  7. Anonymous says:

    “… demand for long-haul flights…”

    Says who, those same #World Class CI CS, CAL and CIG/Ministry gurus who thought that the Barbados route was a good idea?

    There will definitely be a tale to be told on that fiasco, sometime, …maybe via a future (and yes, bined) Auditor General’s Report ……

    Any takers on the cost over runs/gross incompetence (and worse) to be displayed on any airport extension “graft” sorry, I meant “project’….

    I’m going with a “known” cost over run of CI$50m…

  8. Anonymous says:

    Hey kenny, do we really need long haul flights? Are hotels empty and offering cut rate prices to entice visitors? Are employable Caymanians un-employed?
    If a new airport is built in Little Cayman, will a fully staffed hospital be added to be able to handle possible emergencies? What about primary and high schools for the children of the hospital staff and other emergency personnel?
    Commercial jet flights have been operating to Cayman Brac for 40 years and now the airport is too narrow?
    Diamonds are valuable because supply is controlled, the same principal should be followed for access to the Cayman Islands.

    • Anonymous says:

      I would be more concerned with crime than long haul flights. If the crime continues to increase, the tourism numbers will decrease.

  9. LEF says:

    Please leave the north sound alone. Everything that is for our safety you guys want to destroy. Stop destroying the islands!

  10. Anonymous says:

    What market demand for long haul flights? We can’t even fill the BA flight a few days a week.

    • Anonymous says:

      We do, but they all get off at Bahamas, which is probably why we have to suffer that route.

      • Anonymous says:

        If most passengers are getting off in the Bahamas then “we” don’t fill the flights. BA fills the flights with passengers for two destinations.
        Or would you prefer a runway extension with a direct BA flight once, maybe twice, per week?
        I’m OK with no extension and a shared destination flight. Getting more of the tourist traffic is up to the tourism industry and officials.

      • Anonymous says:

        That’s what I mean….Cayman alone can’t even fill that flight. It has to be shared with Bahamas. Wouldn’t be feasible without the sharing with Bahamas.

  11. Anonymous says:

    He’s a “BLIBO” or a B.L.I.B.O.

    Blatantly Lying Illegal Billboard Owner!

  12. Anonymous says:

    We really should have built a brand new airport in East End and turned the current airport land into affordable housing.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Look at that smug face.

  14. Anonymous says:

    My goodness is Kenny handsome. Move over Denzel there’s a new hunk in town!

  15. Anonymous says:

    You should move the airport on Grand Cayman…. I do not know who thought putting the flight path in the direct hit of 1.) a fuel depot for the island, then 2.) Schools, then 3.) Hospital and then the run way…. Heavens for bid any plane comes short of getting to ORIA

  16. Anonymous says:

    “there is no support for the runway extension” – unfortunately the wishes of the public are irrelevant when certain politicians are offered thick brown envelopes.

  17. watcher says:

    Apologies, Mr. Bryan; in my passion I misspelled your name. It won’t happen again.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Can we please get this idiot out of office come April. He will be the ruin of this country.

    • Anonymous says:

      They voted in the moronic ex drug dealer thinking he can make sound decisions. Make it make sense.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Geez man, that Sh!$ eatig grin says it all. This man really thinks he has ARRIVED!!!!

  20. Anonymous says:

    Little sure could use some nice billboards to spruce the place up.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Why is the crown owned boat launch at the end of the runway not open to the public Kenny?

    Inquiring minds want to know why only certain individuals are allowed access.

    • Anonymous says:

      Probably because its a safety concern for planes taking off in that direction or landing from that direction ?

      • Anonymous says:

        Which explains why certain individuals are permitted to use it how exactly?

        • Anonymous says:

          because they are police, DOE, fire and coast guard members, that dock is used by those services. The person bitching about it…well you can deal with him/her, I dont have the time.

          • Anonymous says:

            No, they are not, ignoramus. They of who you speak dont use a public launch ramp in Tropical Gardens, that privilege is apparently reserved for Kenny’s chosen few.

  22. Anonymous says:

    Why not build the extension inland across the current cricket pitch ?

    The new long haul planes do not need as much runway in any event.

    No need to destroy the North Sound.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Those consultants better start looking for a place to build a runway up on the Bluff. The three existing runways will be below sea level sooner than we think.

    • Anonymous says:

      We need some Dutch consultants.

      • Anonymous says:

        We did have some a few years ago, but the Chinese showed how generous they were willing to be, resulting in the Dutch being fired.
        We got sued, the UDP government settled at a cost to us, of a couple of million dollars.
        We now have a return of the UDP operatives, under a different name, so nothing they do would be a surprise.

    • Anonymous says:

      No need, the protective barrier of ignorance which is getting higher every year will save us from the inundation of common sense.

  24. Anonymous says:

    Expansion to MWCR makes sense – let’s cater to long haul. That section of The Sound is already in an abysmal state due to the past 50+ years of intense development in the immediate area.


    Get rid of the “international” status of MWCB and handle all international arrivals on Grand.

    Dont touch Little. You will completely destroy the last slice of pristine, uninterrupted, natural habitat left in the nation.

    It’s not rocket science. It’s just greed and obvious catering to the 1%

    • watcher says:


      “CIAA has dismissed a number of alternative solutions and has opted for the airfield to be relocated onto CIAA-owned undeveloped land in the centre of the island.” Oh great. Instead of lengthening the Little Cayman runway, they will plow and fill and pave a section of the interior which has, so far, remained native. PER-fect solution. Gee, or gee, shall we guess which entities are to benefit from the “CIAA-owned undeveloped land”?

      Filling of the Cayman Brac ponds would be an ecological DISASTER!!! Can’t anyone in charge see that? I can well understand why Mr. Bryant doesn’t get it, because he sees the ponds as wasted dollars. Good Lord. Can’t we look at Grand Cayman, see how we have allowed its ruin, and not wish the same for the Sister Islands?

  25. Anonymous says:

    Nothing will ever happen in Little Cayman. They’ve been talking about new runways for decades. For CIG to spend anything on Little Cayman, there would need to be a resident voter base of 1000 people.

    The flow of taxpayer money is always vote driven. That, more than any sensible planning or environmental considerations, is the only thing keeps Little Cayman somewhat safe.

    • Anonymous says:

      The flow of taxpayer money is driven by developers greed in many instances.

      Unfortunately Little Cayman will join the total destruction in the coming years as a few developers own or have options on land there and are willing to pay politicians serious money to make it happen.

  26. Anonymous says:

    I would say the biggest threat is just to the left of the picture.

    • Anonymous says:

      8.27… Bullseye..!
      Nothing will happen other than money spent on consultants .
      Kenneth’s main interest is getting his name and pictures in the media , after that he does not have enough education to follow through.

    • Anonymous says:

      Stupid is as stupid does!

  27. Anonymous says:

    Insanity, there is no support for the runway extension. Looks like we need to revive the anti cruise port structure to deal with this matter as well. CIG has no issue destroying what is left of the North Sound, but I had a DOE inspector make me re install the deck boards on my dock because there was not a large enough gap between the boards to allow sunlight through for the sea grass below.

    • Anonymous says:

      Probably on canal that was man made where there was no sea grass in the first place

    • Anonymous says:

      We are plagued by just left school born again environmentalists who have never had to, and still don’t know , how to earn a living.


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