Minister calls for more public input on port

| 26/01/2009

(CNS): Following the extension of the consultation period regarding the terms of reference for the environmental impact assessment (EIA) on the port development, Minister of Tourism Charles Clifford is encouraging everyone citizens to make submissions before the end of the month. The EIA, which is being carried out by CH2M Hill, will study the possible environmental, social and economic ramifications of the port expansion.

An initial list of 14 terms to be covered in the EIA was compiled by the Department of Environment; these will be revised following the public consultation period. 

Clifford said it was this is the first time in Cayman’s history that such an extensive environmental impact assessment has been included in a development project, and it demonstrated the government’s commitment to changing Cayman’s past of unplanned development.

“The EIA is not a mere formality as some may believe. The government remains committed to striking that delicate balance between our development goals and preserving the environment and the way of life of the Caymanian people,” he said. “This port expansion project has the future prosperity of Cayman and Caymanians at its heart and as such we must do it right.

Having said that however in a recent public meeting it was made very clear that the public wanted to see other locations explored for the cargo port but Clifford has said he will not be extensive the terms of reference to including other sites. 

He has defended this in the face of opposition by citing the fifteen-year-old, 1994 Master Port Development Plan which proposed George Town as the most appropriate location for the port expansion project. He did however state yet again that if the EIA indicates that unavoidable and irreparable damage will be done to the Seven Mile Beach area as an example, the project will not go forward.

He said the development was important for a number of reasons not least securing the country’s cruise tourism earnings.

“What many people may not realize is how big role cruise tourism plays in the Islands’ overall economic health and well-being,” Clifford added. “Cruise lines pay to make calls to Cayman. These funds go directly into the national coffers to support projects and programmes in all three islands.” 

To his critics he also stated that the development is less about increasing the number of daily visitors to George Town and more about improving their experience, so they will continue to choose Cayman as a holiday destination.

“There is already a provision that no more that 6 ships or a maximum of 15,000 persons may disembark at any one time and this remains in effect. The key difference this port will make is that it will improve visitor experience,” he noted.

The public is being invited to add their views on other areas of concern that the EIA should take into consideration that are not already included in the DoE’s list of concerns which include:Ø 

-Sediment transport within the influence of the project

-Wave energy under worst case and typical conditions and potential shoreline impact

-Water quality including potential for generating turbidity 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 it 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 adjacent waterfront business district

-Effects of proposed near-shore berthing and operation of ships at berthing facility

-Effects of the proposed cargo facility on 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 its initial funding and operation

-Analysis of alternatives to the proposed project

-Identification of possible measures to prevent or reduce significant negative impacts both during and after construction.

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