Little Cayman airport plan risks drastic change

| 10/05/2024 | 30 Comments
Edward Bodden Airfield on Little Cayman

(CNS): The proposal to move the airport on Little Cayman to a site owned by the Cayman Islands Airport Authority in the centre of this least developed island could have far-reaching implications for its fundamental character, according to a document prepared by the Environmental Assessment Board Subcommittee of the National Conservation Council.

The project itself would have a direct harmful impact on the island’s natural habitat, but in addition, an airport accommodating larger planes would increase the population and lead to accelerated development, undermining the quality of life and tranquillity currently enjoyed by residents and tourists.

The proposed project would negatively impact the island’s native flora and fauna as well as migratory birds. However, there are also concerns that the new airport would drastically and irrevocably change the unique cultural identity of the smallest Cayman Island.

“The island’s cultural identity is rooted in its traditional heritage, tight-knit community and historical connection to seafaring,” the Department of Environment said in the scoping opinion undertaken ahead of the EIA process for the project.

This month, the CIAA began the bidding process to find consultants to draw up terms of reference for EIAs of proposed changes at the three airports, as reported by CNS.

While there are major environmental considerations for the planned work on Cayman Brac and Grand Cayman, the project on Little Cayman has raised a catalogue of concerns. “The smallness of the island, combined with its low population and relative isolation have all contributed to the unique character of Little Cayman,” the DoE said.

“Little Cayman includes several areas that have been shortlisted for UNESCO World Heritage status to recognise places of outstanding natural or cultural value. The island has a small population, and remains largely undeveloped… an influx of tourists and potentially new residents facilitated by the improved accessibility can lead to cultural changes to local community dynamics and risks the dilution of the island’s unique cultural identity.”

The cultural heritage of Little Cayman is closely tied to the natural environment, and changes caused by a bigger airport will likely have a knock-on effect, with increased pressure on resources resulting in an increase in visitors and the corresponding population increase to accommodate the additional arrivals.

The potential for over-development on Little Cayman has fuelled real concern among residents, and the DoE has noted that the threat is further enhanced “in the absence of a Development Plan for the island”.

The existing Edward Bodden Airfield on Little Cayman operates under an exemption from the Civil Aviation Authority permitting the use of any de Havilland DHC-6 (DHC-6-300) operated by Cayman Airways Express.

To adhere to International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards, the airport management team has stated that it must be modified to meet regulations and is at high risk of having the exemption and operations certificate revoked if changes are not implemented soon — something that the authority has been claiming for decades.

During a public consultation most residents have made it clear they do not want the airport to move or to be extensively modified. The CIAA identified several alternatives but, despite the wishes of the local population, has dismissed most of them. However, the DoE has said the consultants must look more closely and seek further information about the alternatives and the approach used to select or discount them. In the end the experts have said there should be an assessment of the other options considered against each other.

The plan for this new airfield includes a 5000-foot runway and 240-meter runway end safety areas. A new airport terminal to meet requirements for capacity, security and passenger processing, an Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting (ARFF) tender shelter, landside access and parking are also in the plans.

The proposed site consists of dry shrubland and seasonally flooded mangroves with some man-modified areas. It is very close to the Booby Pond Nature Reserve and Rookery, designated as a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention. It is also home to a breeding colony of magnificent frigatebirds.

The dry shrubland provides habitat for the endemic Sister Islands rock iguana, a protected species. The access road also cuts across habitat that is home to Little Cayman’s endemic snail, Cerion nanus, a critically endangered species protected under the law that The American Scientist calls “the rarest snail in the world“.

Aside from the obvious negative impacts that the noise and vibrations from the construction and operation of an airport will have on such a small island, the clearing of a large area of seasonally flooded mangrove shrubland could significantly affect the resiliency of the island to flooding in severe storms. Little Cayman is low-lying, and the new airport would be vulnerable to climate change, especially sea level rise.

Groundwater may be affected, and with a number of residential and commercial properties in the immediate vicinity of the proposed airport, the water quality and drainage are likely to be a concern.

The potential for increased stormwater runoff could lead to erosion, flooding and sedimentation of nearby water bodies. Inadequate stormwater management could lead to oil, grease, chemicals and heavy metals being washed into nearby water bodies and groundwater, causing pollution to the island’s pristine natural habitat.

See the scoping opinion in the CNS Library and the details of the bid on the government’s procurement site here.

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

Comments (30)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Sorry for you all sometime environmentalist but , Little Cayman MUST have a new airport, so just get over it.

  2. Soon Come says:

    If the current airport doesn’t meet the international safety standards, which the Cayman Islands are required to meet, and a safer airport on a different site isn’t acceptable then run a ferry between Little Cayman and Cayman Brac. Would that make everybody happy?

  3. Anonymous says:

    Nobody in Little Cayman, or who travels to Little Cayman wants a new airport, so what is driving this? If nobody wants it, why are we even talking about it? Is it the CIAA pushing this?

  4. Steve Pounds says:

    Govt has ruined grand cayman , leave little cayman alone , been enjoying a week there for the last 30 yrs . Hope it doesn’t happen .

  5. anon says:

    Government Please please have a development plan for the sister islands before it’s too late.
    The proposed future development on Little Cayman. Will change the Little island forever.
    Can the government please actually do something positive in this tenure?

  6. Cheese Face says:

    Just leave it alone you fools!

  7. Anonymous says:

    Don’t Stop The carnival!

  8. Anonymous says:

    I’m guessing these are the same idiots who launched the transparently moronic service to Barbados…

  9. Peter says:

    CIAA, Gov and the people behind this (you know who you are) should be utterly ashamed for what you are proposing to do all in the name of ultimate greed. There should be a large mural on the wall of your proposal showing the history of the Cayman Islands and YOUR contribution to the destruction by written definition inclusive of names. Be proud enough to post and sign your name. i.e. This is what life was on Little Cayman, the names here have contributed to what you will see as you walk out the doors today.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Little Cayman is unique for a reason. It is largely un-developed & has retained the island charm that people who live there and visit there appreciate. It should be kept this way at any cost.

  11. Anonymous says:

    I take that flight almost monthly, I think I maybe have a full flight less than a quarter of those times. Nothing there is at capacity.

  12. Anonymous says:

    It’s a boutique island. Keep it that way.

  13. Anonymous says:

    ask the people who live there, If they dont want it, dont build it.

    • Anonymous says:

      Ask the Caymanian people who live there.

    • Anonymous says:

      its not about what the ‘people’ (majority) want. It all comes down to the few but wealthy, special interest parties who lobby and grease our government behind closed doors…as we can see from the recent planning approvals where objections never seem to ‘demonstrate’ enough reason to refuse over-development.

  14. Anonymous says:

    lyb is not an inetnational airport. it does not have anything to with thr International Civil Aviation Organization.

    • Anonymous says:

      It has everything to do with ICAO who produce the standards and recommended practices adopted in code by the UK and its’ territories. You are confusing international travel with international standards for commercial operations.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Here’s an idea abandon the airport and only allow boats/ferries to the island and whalla, a unique and intriguing adventure entrance to the island. Have a helipad for emergencies.

    Problem solved. If we can just get Kenny to stop these money wasting ideas it would only get better.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Yah, those of us on the Sister Islands can’t wait for the overbuilding to happen, so we can be JUST like Grand Cayman. No, really. We absolutely hate the tranquility, and wish there were more boom boom cars up and down the road, and more construction noise, and a healthy dose of traffic. We hate the peace and quiet, and long for noise and grief because we are totally willing to trade our quietude for a few more fresh things from the up-and-coming supermarket. Let me tell you: I don’t think that new supermarket will be a Fosters, because that family will hate seeing the Brac despoiled. That family knows what the Brac and Little Cayman is, and reveres it. We should all revere the Sister Islands. People talk about us like we’re the backward stepchild and call us a drain on finances. What the Sister Islands are is the last stronghold of natural resources and nature in general. Some of us think that if land cannot be translated into immediate money, that it is worthless. There are things within a country or territory that have value than is immeasurable. When we eventually pave over LC and the Brac, we will have finally killed everything good about the Cayman Islands that ever existed.

  17. Anonymous says:

    look at who owns undeveloped land on Little and you will have your answer as to why CIG and Kenny are so keen to increase the airlift. Starter for nothing – its not to improve the life of Caymanians already living there.

  18. Anonymous says:

    The airport will never move. CIAA and the politicos make a little noise about it every other election cycle to show “progress”.

    The most that will happen is a joint department/ministry billboard out front with a fanciful rendition of the imagined facility. That will spin things along nicely for another decade.

  19. Anonymous says:

    The next election can’t come soon enough, leave little Cayman alone it’s the best of all three.

    • Anonymous says:

      Agree, however I have little hope that any new shining stars will step up. You’d have to be a fool to want to run for office here, and unfortunately, that is exactly what we get. It’s a terrible job. Love of money is not enough to justify crawling in bed with developers and the devil.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Ridiculous but the fate of Little Cayman is in the hands of a few Kenny voters in GT Central and a few developers who buy the politicians who get elected.

  21. Anonymous says:

    If they would just publish the price for buying the relevant politicians we could start raising funds to stop this from happening. As it is it is only the developers who seem to know.

  22. Anonymous says:

    Not Needed. Not Wanted. Leave one part of Cayman be!

  23. Anonymous says:

    Leave it where it is! Yes the existing building could use a refurbishment but leave it where it is. Don’t allow bigger planes to land there. LC is the last remaining bit of tranquility left in the country, don’t ruin it. They’re already digging their claws into the Brac with Port Zeus coming soon.


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