DoE lists Port concerns

| 12/01/2009

(CNS): The Department of Environment, which will be overseeing the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) regarding the redevelopment of the George Town Port, has raised some 14 preliminary issues, from water quality and reef destruction to increased vulnerability to hurricane damage, that need to be addressed during the study. However, the government has already said the EIA is not a decision maker, merely an informer. (Left: DoE Director Gina Ebanks-Petrie)

From the three names submitted to the DoE, CH2M HILL has been selected and phase 1 of the EIA will begin with public meetings this week to elicit ideas on the further proposed parameters for the scope of the assessment. So far, however, the DoE has already listed an extensive number of issues that it says will needs to be assessed, from the impact of sediment transport to the degrading of water quality.

Speaking at last week’s media briefing, the government made it quite clear that the results of the EIA would not determine whether or not the development would go ahead.

“It is important to say that the EIA, while not a decision maker, is a decision informer. It is meant to provide a sound basis upon which decisions can be made,” Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts said.

Minister Charles Clifford, under whose ministry the DoE falls, admitted that if the assessment revealed that the project would destroy Seven Mile Beach then clearly that would be a show stopper. As a major project, the government was looking for the best way to design the new port with the minimum environmental impact but that the government was seeking to construct the new port somehow. “We have to upgrade our infrastructure. There is no question about this,” Clifford said.

However, speaking at the same briefing, DoE Director Gina Ebanks-Petrie said that, while the department did not have any one single major fear, there were a number concerns about the project which had been listed.

“We have outlined a number of concerns that the Department of Environment has identified and I think they are all important concerns,” she said. “The whole purpose of the EIA is to ensure that all of those concerns are addressed in such a way that the trade offs between the benefit of the project and the costs in terms of environmental damage or socio-economic issues will be very evident to the decision makers.”

Prior to public input, the DoE has already said that it wants the assessment to look at: wave energy under worst case and typical conditions and potential impact on shore; water quality including the potential for generating turbidities during and after construction; effects on existing coastal ecosystems and resources within the footprint and adjacent area of the project; effects of any construction blasting should this be required; effects on the existing operations of the port and other maritime related stakeholders; effects on adjacent historical/archaeological resources; extent and scale of impact on the adjacent downtown waterfront business district; effects of the proposed near shore berthing and operation of ships at berthing facility; effects of the proposed cargo facility on the road network; hazard vulnerability due to flooding, hurricanes, and storm surge; socio-economic analyses to identify possible negative economic impacts of project with respect to initial funding of the project and operation of the project; analysis of Alternatives to the Proposed Project; and identifying possible measures to prevent or reduce significant negative impacts both during and after construction.

Petrie said it was important that the trade offs were evident and the issues were very clearly articulated about such issues as what would happen to the local wrecks and reefs in the port, and the potential increased exposure to hurricanes.

However, the LoGB made it clear that once the project started there would be damage but the goal was to minimize the damage. “All construction projects have some kind of impact on our environment,” Tibbetts said. “The EIA will tell us what can be done to minimise the impacts and explore options to offset any negative outcomes which are anticipated.”

He added that the DoE had cast a broad net in terms ofthe factors which are to be considered that will impact the environmental, economic and social well being of the country, and that decisions would be made based upon reasonable scientific judgment and appropriateness.

Phase 1 of the EIA will begin with meetings on 13 January for the general public and on 14 January for stakeholders. Information will also be provided on a website to allow for public input via email to the DoE over the period of one week.  Phase 2 of the EIA, which involves actual testing, is due to commence once the terms of reference have been finalised. The LoGB said that CH2M HILL would prepare a final terms of reference for phase 2 of the EIA project. The final scope will clearly define the tasks to be accomplished and the effects to be studied.


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  1. Anonymous says:

    Had the mangroves been left alone (those that were ripped out and land "created" in their place to build the Ritz and Camana Bay), I am sure the havoc brought by Ivan would have been far less…..but now the damage is done. There was a big hullabaloo about building solid walls along Seven Mile Beach as they were known to create a situation where the sand was being pulled out to sea and eroding the beach…….but now the damage is done. It was wonderful to look down the beach and see no building higher than a coconut tree, then they allowed higher buildings………and now the damage is done. The wonderful old houses in central George Town could have been kept intact externally and a friendly little village of shops and walkways could have been created, but they were torn down to make monstrous modern buildings, and now the damage is done. Now NO-ONE can know in advance the damage to Seven Mile Beach that the new berthing port will create, (by blocking currents and wave action)  but it seems obvious that it is a 50-50 risk that the entire beach will disappear………the mind boggles to think of the damage that will be done if this goes ahead. Why can our politicians NOT SEE that the quaintness of a higgledypiggeldy airport, tender boats to get on and off cruise ships and landing on a grass runway to park on the road in Little Cayman MAKE AN ADVENTURE in this otherwise modern, sterile, uniform andboring world??????? People will PAY to have a bit of fun and adventure and to see something quaint, old-fashioned and unusual….they can walk on and off cruiseships in Miami. DON’T LET THEM MAKE THIS ABOMINATION!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Anonymous says:

    MInister Tibbetts you are my family and I care about you but can you please see to it that this project is stopped before we pay an even higher price in the future with the damages this will potentially cause our country’s marine and coastal environments. I know you are a nice and kind person and always willing to say ‘Yes’ but can you think of this project as a bad drug and simply say ‘No’. That’s my input on this one.
    Thanks CNS

  3. Anonymous says:

    Not sure why people are moaning about how much this will cost or saying that we shouldnt waste money building it.  Obviously it is going to more than pay for itself in the long run.

    For a country with no income taxes they have to earn money from somewhere to pay for the public services.

    The real issue is that it will destroy the views out of Georgetown and cause an environmental nightmare.

    Maybe its a ploy by the Dart group to make Georgetown ugly so that the tourists will swarm to Camana Bay!

  4. Anonymous says:

    With reference to…

    "However, the LoGB made it clear that once the project started there would be damage but the goal was to minimize the damage. “All construction projects have some kind of impact on our environment,” Tibbetts said. “The EIA will tell us what can be done to minimise the impacts and explore options to offset any negative outcomes which are anticipated.”

    … a genuine EIA should equally address the "no build option", ie. the social, economic and environmental costs and benefits of keeping things as they are.

  5. Missing Sunsets says:



    Ignoring the obvious issues and other folks comments, what is sad culturally and otherwise is that the views out to sea from George Town will be BLOCKED by these large concrete structures–no longer will you be able to see the sunsets nor the horisons in the area from Eden Rock to the Rackums.

    The proposed port will be a large, concrete deck, probably 20 feet out of the water all long there. Additionally the shops and Hotel on the existing dock.

    The idea that a EIA is considered before the start to be "not a decision maker, merely an informer" is Nonsence.  Why do one then??  It means that the PPM government does not care what you think nor what the result is…This is election year and key thing here is to look as if you have done something after 4 years of idle and misguided policies.

    Caymanians should see that this project was NOT BID, is a behind the scenes DEAL and totally contrary to the PPM’s election promise of "transparency".




  6. Anonymous says:

    As an additional concern which does not seem to be shared by the current government. It is my belief that this economic down turn could last longer and be more severe that has been determined by this government.

    If so the only prudent alternative would be for the government to shelve these major capital projects.

    I would also urge the local media outlets to use the Freedom of Information to access the actual governmental relationship with the the Cruise Ship Association in the financing of these projects.

  7. disappointed says:

    i agree with JabJab, Whodatis, and Anonymous, and as a 30 something, young Caymanian, we don’t need a whole new port! We can’t afford it, financially, environmentally, nor culturally.

    I sincerely hope our country speaks out about this unnecessary expenditure and that our country’s leaders LISTEN!!

    Vote No for the new Port! let’s use our country’s money more wisely and not be shortsighted!

  8. whodatis says:

    The bottom line here is that the port will be built regardless of the feedback from the EIA.

    What really puzzles me about Cayman and the rest of the region is the fact that we are constantly interfering with our natural landscape and resources for the sake of $ and the tourism industry.

    Throughout history, the world has NEVER been more "environmentally aware" than they are today, yet the tiny, delicate islands of the Caribbean are CONSTANTLY being abused by the very same American, Canadian, British and European "GREENIES".

    People, the UK (our "mother-nation" as they say) now has HUNDREDS of miles of protected coastline – reaching over 10 miles inland at some points, that no-one could even DREAM of constructing upon even a toolshed! Yet the hyper-sensitive (bearing in mind location, climate, susceptibility to major storm activity), delicate, vital, and beautiful coastline of our country is being ripped apart, dismantled and reshaped all in the name of $!! An issue like the contruction of this proposed port (along with recently and currently erected monstrosities) should be an an absolute outrage! Is it? Of course not.

    I am not naive to the vitality of a good tourism product for our economy, however, an onus must be placed upon those that visit these islands to exercise a degree of understanding and appreciation in the event of the Cayman Islands not providing them with top-notch, cool and "modern" berthing facilities!

    It is time for the nationals of the strongest  "environment protecting" countries/regions to practice what they preach and show a bit of respect for our environment as well, which factually, due to size and limitations, demands a far higher standard of enforced protection.

    More and more I see that Caymanian leadership is severly lacking foresight and the willingness to go against the great economic tide in the name of protecting who and what we are. At the end of the day the stance that I am championing CAN NOT be successfully debated against. If people/companies (cruise line companies included) of today TRULY cared about the environment we would NEVER be put in this position.

    This is just yet another example of how Cayman is throwing away more of its natural quaintness that ironically has actually propelled our tourism product thus far.

    Food chain businesses, international franchises, "no trespassing" signs along 7 mile beach, complete lack of cultural expression or representaton to greet our cruise visitors..the list is never-ending.

    It is sad to see what the world is coming to, truly it is, and sadly Cayman is going right along with the program. Nothing nor anything is sacred anymore.


    (** On a personal note – in the last seven years 3 of my friends/acquantances have visited Grand Cayman as a part of a Caribbean cruise holiday and all 3 were VERY dsappointed…their overall response was, and I quote: "…it looks just like the USA – it did not feel like the Caribbean." – what do I say to that?!)


  9. Anonymous says:

    Tuesday Night Public Meeting on Port

    There is a public consultation meeting on the proposed Port tomorrow night (Tuesday 13th January) at 7pm at the Family Life Centre.

    I urge EVERYONE who is concerned about this, to attend this meeting and voice your concerns.

    Or use some medium to voice your concerns.  This is not a done deal.  The road through the Ironwood Forest was stopped, although the same Ministers said it was not up for discussion – because people came together and voiced thier concerns and objections. Let us not sit down and allow such enormous environmental, cultural, aesthetic, and (long term) financial loss to happen to our home.

    CNS – Please confirm these details? The meeting has been vaguely mentioned in news articles, but the exact details do not seem to be (widely) publicly available and it does not seem to be advertised.

    CNS Note: An announcement of the meeting has been at the top of the home page all day – I’ll leave it there tomorrow also

  10. JabJab says:

    The question is: can we say we just don’t want the port? In the past, when the idea for a new port was floated by previous ministers, negative public input sank it. This Environment Minister has cut out the first step of asking ‘do people want a new port’ and gone straight to asking ‘how should it be built’.

    • Anonymous says:


      In the past I don’t think the public were asked their opinion either. In fact it would be pretty unusual for govts. to ask the public whether they think we need infrastructure.  

  11. Green Hornet says:

    The use of an EIA to justify a project for which contracts have already been negotiated is a typically cynical move by developers everywhere — in this case our government for whom the environment has been put on a back burner. Of course, the consultants hired to produce the EIA are going to be paid by government, so it would be a great surprise to me if they said anything seriously detrimental about the project.

    To show it’s honest concern to all, the government should fund an independent EIA and not sign any deals — no matter who proposes them — until a real scientic projection of the port expansion impact has been made.

  12. Anonymous says:

    What a tragedy this project will be if it goes forth. It’s not a done deal yet. Surely public sentiment can sway the powers that be. I have yet to hear a single person except for Minister Chuckie that is FOR this. Follow the Money, perhaps?

  13. Anonymous says:

    I wholeheartedly support Gina Ebanks-Petrie and the Department of Environment. The ability of other governmental departments to trump the views and or concerns of the DoE is a huge problem for the Cayman Islands.

    Where does the unmitigated confidence of this government come from that these huge structures will not seriously impact the structure of seven mile beach?

    Every indication from the government is that this construction is a "done deal".

    Aworse case senario of adverse impact to the sand flow along 7 mile beach would sink tourism for Grand Cayman Island.