The ‘big hole’ absurdities

| 31/05/2011

The more I read the Environmental Impact Assessment on the proposed commercial port in East End, aka the “big hole”, the more I wonder if the author of the report, no doubt paid handsomely for the work, recognised the absurdity of the project. As a result of the apparent hopelessness of saving any of the marine or terrestrial environment in the vicinity from disaster she just wrote anything, hoping people would read between the lines – an almost ironic attempt, if you will, at saying “you must be kidding me?”

Sadly, however, the developer does not appear to be kidding.

He really does want to dig a big hole and dredge a channel to get the rock out and he has come up with what appears to be a cunning plan to con the people into thinking it’s not a “big hole” but a splendid commercial seaport that will make us all rich beyond our wildest dreams.

In order to get at what the developer believes is his rock, as some of that rock is definitely on land he owns, he has faced a few stumbling blocks over the years. Given the planning zones, the area at High Rock where the land is located is not designated for industrial use, and given its outstanding natural beauty an application for a quarry there was never going to cut it.

The developer knew he needed a better plan. Enter stage left: East End Sea Port! Now while the cargo plan is not without its hurdles, so far he seems to be mounting them very well.

The hurdle of “the premier and the government” in general was leapt very easily and the promise of jobs vacuuming cruise cabins, rolling oil barrels or washing down yachts appears to have leapt the “some of the people outside of East End” hurdle. Now, with few independent expert environmentalists or green campaigners among us, he may well manage to leap the “natural disaster” hurdle as well.

The EIA, all two hundred and forty some pages of it, is unlikely to be read in full by most people and sadly it is unlikely that they will pick up on what must be the subliminal messages of the author.

Despite some obviously absurd mitigating suggestions, like collecting seeds to replace 500 acres of mature unique terrestrial environment or just moving the coral heads down a bit when the developer rips up the reef, it’s possible people might miss the joke, because really, that’s what it must be.

From the perspective of the EIA’s authors, if a developer plans to build a commercial seaport that includes oil and gas storeage, commercial transhipment, and cruise home porting that requires a 55-foot deep inland port basin, over four-million square feet, a channel cutting through a reef and a jetty sticking out into the sea, it's common sense that it’s not ideal for the environment.

The idea that it won’t be is, of course, absurd. The job of the EIA writers is to say, well, if you’re going to destroy everything here’s a list of stuff that those who can’t read between the lines might buy in exchange fordestroying everything.

The EIA makes it clear that this would be a disaster for the environment both near and far and won’t necessarily be a bed of roses for the community either, but in order to fulfil the remit the writers have come up with some half-hearted efforts to suggest how the developer can soften the blow.

When the authors suggest that architectural design features can mitigate the loss of the outstanding natural beauty of that coast line by creating a visually appealing facility, you know that’s the pay cheque talking.

The problem is thereis a real danger that people may be sold on these mitigating factors combined with the promise of jobs and economic riches at a time when they are feeling vulnerable. Some people already appear to be taking the developer at his word and have bought into the promises of an economic wonder —  just take a look t the blogs on the CNS stories related to this! They can’t all be written by the developer.

But in five years time when all we have is a big hole and no money and no other investor willing to build the infrastructure, the question of what will the people do then will be a hard one for the government of the day to answer.

Do we really expect the people of East End to feel “mitigated” because there are some seeds down at the Botanic Park, rescued from the 500 acres of mature and unique terrestrial habitat torn from its ancient roots?

I doubt either that there will be a warm fuzzy feeling of comfort that at least one or two of the coral heads that were rescued from the acres and acres of reef that was crushed under the dredger lasted for a little while when they were moved before they died. Nor, I daresay, will the people of East End be smiling fondly when they look back at the once fine quality of their water lens as they drink from their bottles of ‘Wata’ imported from Jamaica.

The EIA makes it clear to those who read the whole thing that the “big hole” project has limited, if indeed there can be said to be any, benefits to the public at large, which are far far outweighed by the negative impact it will have on the environment and the community.

However, if government is planning to go ahead and approve this development, the opposition and the people of East End alone cannot stop it. This will require a much broader island-wide opposition, otherwise the developer will be allowed to leap the “natural disaster hurdle” and allow the absurdities in the EIA to become realities.

Category: Viewpoint

Comments (35)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Many might not know that Mr. Imparato has purchased over 600 acres there. The hole (quarry) is only 130 plus acres.

    If Mr Imparato was not going to convert all that remaining land around the hole to something else, why did he buy it?  

    Why did he lock up his hard earned millions in land around a 'terrible quarry"?.  Makes no sense, and knowing these developers it would not make any sense to them either.

    I, for one is convinced that he is doing more than a big hole…..to let what will become a minimum of $400 million worth of land ( 500 x $80K/acre) sit there is not going to happen. What I want to make sure is that, two things,…. he finishes his vision and that our government and Caymanian people gets something out of it….but this is clearly not just a quarry! the really big money comes AFTER the dig.

    think about it….

     

     

    • Boston Tea Party says:

      $80k an acre? Are you mad?

      The truth is that the port facilities in GT are not fit for purpose and with every day that passes they deteriorate and the Island’s reputation deteriorates with then. Central GT needs a total overhaul (and the kudicrous vanity project of the Watch Tower is not it). Central GT should not be an industrial zone with a port, it should be a gracious and serene location for business and tourists alike

      Whether the big hole is the best venue for a major port development is doubtful not least due to the ridiculous increase in road journeys that would be required. However a leisure port in the eastern districts might well be a good thing. Unfortunately I doubt the investment will be there to accomplish any of these projects due to the fact that the current regulatory regime particularly the local company control and immigration laws together with the complete lack of rational continuity of government ie government here is more about doing down your opposition than doing good for the country makes inward investment on any scale almost impossible to contemplate. All we have to offer the Chinese ( say) is some sort of promise we will become more corrupt so they can launder their money which I hope to goodness will not happen as we have done so much to clean up our act. In fact it is a nonsense to think that the Chinese would be interested in Cayman as we have nothing to offer them for exploitation and not really any long term hope for investment or political favours

      • anonymous says:

        Yes you are correct..$80K/acre is way too little but I was being conservative.

        Uncleared rocky and wet land in area is going for $15-20,000 per acre now.  1/4 acre house lots in area already sell for $40,000 so I estimate Imparato is really looking at around $800M worth of land.

        Now you see why this is not just a quarry??!!…

         

    • Anonymous says:

      Because, Mr. Dumbass, whoever "develops" the "port" will have to buy or lease it from him. He's giving Cayman the big hole, but you will have to deal with him if you want to put anything on the ground around it.

  2. Anonymous says:

    It's a long read but take a minute, this was on the bbc website:

    "Nature 'is worth billions' to UK"

    The UK's parks, lakes, forests and wildlife are worth billions of pounds to the economy, says a major report.

    The health benefits of merely living close to a green space are worth up to £300 per person per year, it concludes.

    The National Ecosystem Assessment (NEA) says that for decades, the emphasis has been on producing more food and other goods – but this has harmed other parts of nature that generate hidden wealth.

    Ministers who commissioned the NEA will use it to re-shape planning policy.

    "The natural world is vital to our existence, providing us with essentials such as food, water and clean air – but also cultural and health benefits not always fully appreciated because we get them for free," said Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman.

    "The UK NEA is a vital step forward in our ability to understand the true value of nature and how to sustain the benefits it gives us."

    The economic benefits of nature are seen most clearly in food production, which depends on organisms such as soil microbes, earthworms and pollinating insects.

    If their health declines – as is currently happening in the UK with bees – either farmers produce less food, or have to spend more to produce the same amount.

    Either way there is an economic impact; and on average, the costs are growing over time.

     

     

    Full link here:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-13616543

     

     

  3. Anonymous says:

    I believe a long term solution to the george town port would be a good idea for the east end.

    Of course thiscountry cannot do long term planning so this will likely fail and in 50 years when george town will no longer serve as the cruise ship and cargo port people can lament their choices and curse McKeeva for their own short sightedness.

    It was a similiar situation with the roads planned 30 years ago and dropped and now the country is paying for that decision.

    East enders want the cayman of 30 years ago but want the jobs and money of today. Reject it all and see where you are or where your children are in looking for work.

    moving the fuel oil terminal will also be considered foolish unless there is ever an accident. This country will spend a million dollars building a break wall for east end which will do nothing but not build for the future.

    This country will never go backward don't you understand that? Without moving forward somehow the economy and the nation will fail.

    I wish I was convinced that this port was the answer but I am not. I am convinced that george town is not the place for the port in 100 years. George town should be reserved for the people and made to be something to be proud of not an industrial zone.

    So vote me down and stop the port and in the future explain to the future why you wanted the past and failed to get it.

  4. Anonymous says:

    This will remain nothing more than a "big hole" project until there is a performance bond of some type relating to port construction. If the developer does not want to pay for it up front then whatever permit for digging he gets should specify a NON-DEFERABLE payment of perhaps $5 per yard extracted which would be paid into a trust fund for future port development. Then our only problem would be keeping the politicians' hands out of the cookie jar as they look for ways to buy votes and travel more luxuriously.

    • Anonymous says:

      The total removal and hence destruction of 500 (or 1500) acres is exactly that – and given that this is between 1 and 3% of the total land area of Grand Cayman, this loss should be unacceptable in all cases and particularly for a project with questionable positive impact on the country at large.  And unnessarry given the already exisiting and soon to be expanded facilities for cruise ships and cargo in GT.  Not to mention the impact on the surronding area, water lense, agricultural land, blue iguana habitat, marine ecosystem, water clarity, scenic and cherished coast line, increased vulnerability of the surrounding area to storms.

      This should be a no brainer.

      Any EIA which attempts to downplay the environmental impact of such a project is either a joke or seriously lacking integrity.

      EIAs are meant to be a tool forpolicy makers and the public to have more information about a particular project and then decide for themselves whether the project is desirable and the benefits outweigh the costs.

      Regardless of how much this EIA tries to paint this project in a positive light, we the public and policy makers can draw our own conclusions from the very clear and serious environmental impacts this project will have.

  5. Anonymous says:

    It seems the lines have been drawn and the pro and con sides have been established.

    It seems idiotic that people would argue that the site would be dredged and left but it is an emotional arguement that has stuck in the minds of some people who refuse to think anyt further.

    It is also ironic to hear Caymanians arguing for protecting the environment except when it comes to cashing in personally with any developer willing to throw them the big bucks for their land.

    I don't believe for a second that the project will end with the dredging but then again you cannot convince Caymanians to pass the Conservation Law so sit back and enjoy.

    • Anonymous says:

      1.  The developer has stated that he is not building the port just digging the basin/ hole.

      2. There is no bond inn place to assure the hole is turned into a port.


      3. There has been no plans put forward by government on what happens after the hole is turned over to them.


      4. Government has not put forward any plans for the port.  The Developers artists rendition of what “could” be notwithstanding.


      5. There has been no indication by government how the funding will take place to complete it.


      6. No tenders have been put out for the completion of the port.


      7. There has been no concrete proof from government that it will be complete.  When I say proof I mean more than a greedy politicians promises.


      How can you then say. "It seems idiotic that people would argue that the site would be dredged and left." 

      To the contrary I think the opposite is true.  Only and idiot would by into this charade.

      • Anonymous says:

        There is more to this than the government cargo port. How many ports around the world do NOT have a cargo port … just because the govt. cargo port may not go there any time soon does NOT mean the rest of the 'stuff' will not happen.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Has anyone considered that the title/deed to the land that Joe Imparto now owns and wants to develop is actually classed as "surface ownership" under the land registry?

    Has he applied for mining rights or is he going to "steal" the fill/minerals from this area and sell what essentially is crown land. 

    Correct me if I'm wrong as I'm no lawyer/planner but it may be another angle to approach this unique case.

     

    • Anonymous says:

      That's why Mr. Imparato has drafted a special law that would permit him to do what he wishes with the land.

    • Anonymous says:

      silly comment….hope you do not have government believe that they have the rights to all our wells and septic tanks….that would be bad.

       

  7. nauticalone says:

    Very well said Teresa!

    I have made up my mind….i will do everything i can to stop this "Big Hole"!

    Anyone reading and studying the facts here….and interested in the overall benefits of Cayman (both long and not so long term) will also do all possible to stop this.

    Cayman is small….and needs sustainable eco-friendly development!

    No, no, no to the "Big Hole".

    • Caymanians for logic says:

      Lets hope you do not live in a home (killed at least 1/4 of natural landscape to build it), own a car ( creating smog each day and requiring petrochemicals to move it), did not eat today ( farmers knocked down some parrot habitat to feed you and sprayed fertilizer on it), typing this on a computer (petrochemicals, child labour, genocidal minerals, etc), have a job using paper/inks/computers (trees, petrochemicals, bleach, etc), have A/C where you are (petrochemicals, pollution from CUC, really weird chemicals in those transformers outside) …I could go on….

      The point is, you moving around on this planet causes some serious environmental impacts- many far in excess of the Port in High Rock. Just because you cannot see them (some poor 7 year old child who put together your computer or picked your coffee beans for a penny or the oil-soak ground in the refineries for your new SUV's energy) does not mean you did not cause them.

      Your sound bite, "sustainable eco projects", is just that, a sound bite, unless you are serious about your impact on the world.

      While we have to ensure that our environment is not destroyed meaninglessly, we are all transforming the environment everyday and will continue to do so.  We are decimating some other country's people and landscape so we can eat, work and play in Cayman and post inconsequential blogs like yours (and this one for that matter) on our computers.

      If that makes you happy to know that and still stand up against this project on some "moral or political" ground, drive your a/c SUV to your comfy job, then what more can I say…..

       

      • nauticalone says:

        Try saying; sustainable with more positive environmental and economic impact than negative impacts.

        A "Big Hole" is NOT needed! It is NOT to help the average Caymanian/Resident of this small island.

        Development yes!… Large selfish development no!

         

  8. Anonymous says:

    I'm so glad that you posted this view point.  I have encountered quite a bit of trouble in downloading the EIA and finally have it so that I can read from beginning to end.

    My first thoughts, were that the whole thing was just opinion, not much of it based on fact in terms of the mitigation of the issues.

    The aesthetic and visual components bothered, which you have alluded to in your viewpoint.  I think it is highly subjective to think that buildings can be a true replacement for the natural beauty of flora and fauna and trees.

    I also wonder about the fact that when they try to justify moving hydrocarbon facilities from the south church street, they talk about how developed and residential GT is.  Surely their plans for EE means that it will soon be very developed and have lots of traffic going through EE with the development of megayachts, resort hotels, and cruise port.  So how does it mean that moving the hydrocarbon facility to a place currently undeveloped but with the intention to become developed not create the same issues they currently encounter?

    I also question their mitigation of our hazard vulnerability.  Who is really able to assess this?

    My other issues are these so called jobs.  Who is going to be doing this specialised work?  The second you put jobs into any project you get support in this economy.  But this labour is going to be too specialised to be filled with Caymanian labourers.

    There is so much more I can write, but I also have so much more to read in this 240 + page EIA.  But thank you for writing this.

  9. Whodatis says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    Just this morning as I was staring at my reflection in the mirror whilst brushing my teeth the (now) glaringly obvious and simple truth hit me smack in the jaw.

    This is nothing but a BIG HOLE!!

    The country is in an uproar because we falsely believe that what is up for debate is a fancy and sophisticated "Sea Port".

    * Give me 24 hours and even I could knock together an impressive "artist's impression" of a proposed Space Rocket Launching Port situated at Smith's Cove.

    The developer is NOT building a Sea Port folks!

    A Sea Port is NOT up for grabs folks. The developersimply wants to make a LOT of money via a BIG HOLE!

    Is that what we are battling ourselves over?

    Has anyone else realized that the QUIETEST MOUTH in the room is of he who stands to GAIN the MOST?

    Do we not UNDERSTAND that this is NOT an EAST END ISSUE but a CAYMAN ISSUE?!

    Do we not realize that a BIG HOLE does not equate to national "development" and the provision of mass employment opportunities for the people of Cayman?

    Is the year 2011?!

    It is difficult to believe that we are even having this debate and some are actually entertaining this absurdity considering the history of this country.

    ** Again I repeat – the DEVELOPER is NOT BUILDING an impressive SEA PORT in the district of EAST END … he only wants to DIG a BIG HOLE!!

    Show of hands of all who believe the risks, unknowns and destruction is worth the BIG HOLE of one man.

    *** I would have far less to say on this issue if what the developer was proposing would in no way infringe upon the coast line, marine environment and general "setting" (roadways, access, views, pleasantries) of the proposed area.

    (Basically, if he wanted to create a huge inland quarry on his property that would not impact on the essence of the area in question – then more power to him! No objection here. Although, if I am not mistaking I believe there exists a restriction on such usage of the land in this area. Hence a fancy illusionary illustration of a shiny "Sea port"?)

    I am not against the developer making a profit – he could make a Billion dollars – it would not affect me either way. However, as the situation stands there is no way that I could ever support or endorse this proposal.

    **** Does anyone even care that the vast majority of our stay-over tourists adore and treasure the peace and tranquility of the Eastern districts? As do I by the way!

    Reaction: Construct the largest structural development ever dead smack in the middle of the tranquility! Complete with heavy machinery, transport vehicles and industrial activity.

    Really Cayman … really?!

    • Watler says:

      Ok Whodatis, let me put you to the test and expose your reasoning to mere belief:  Where can you find it is said or it is written that this man just intends to quarry a big hole in the east, and government intends to just leave it at that?

      And you and Teresa, don't tell me logic!  Because you must be able to back your words with factual documentation or hardcore records in order to remain credible. 

      • Anonymous says:

        I think the point is that they are NOT writing that anywhere since we would not be so stupid as to approve that. Mr. Imparato has not committed to building the seaport saying that there would need to be other investors for such a port. He has not provided a performance bond for the seaport. Despite the artist impressions there is no planning application for the construction of a port in the offing.

        While he has provided some graphics to stimulate our imagination and let the naive among us believe we are getting a free lunch he has cleverly not made any commitments to build a seaport. You are clearly one of them.  

      • frank rizzo says:

        Tell us what the government intends to do with the big hole, at the risk of your own credibility.

         

        "The project, if given the go-ahead, would be constructed on privately owned land and would be funded by the developer, who has said he would recoup his investment from the sale of fill which would be extracted from the site during the development. It would then be handed over to the Cayman Islands Port Authority to manage. It is not clear how much of the upland infrastructure would be undertaken by the developer and what would be the responsibility of government in order to make the port operable."

        http://centos6-httpd22-php56-mysql55.installer.magneticone.com/o_belozerov/31115drupal622/headline-news/2011/03/03/seaport-plans-still-coming

        • Anonymous says:

          lol… frank, you use a quote from CNS to back your claim?  where is it that he quoted that he would recoup his investment from the sale of fill which would be extracted from the site during the development? CNS has not published any record about that, but have gotten that from people like Ezzard.

          CNS Note: Please go to this link on the developers own website where he explains that the aggregate will be processed and sold to finance the first phase. http://www.eastendseaport.com/approach/financing/

          • frank rizzo says:

            CNS claims to have derived the information I quoted from AtWater, Imperato's public relations firm. If you doubt the source that is not my concern.

            From my cursory review of the published documents (www.eastendseaport.com), if the project is approved, Phase I (the big hole) will be financed by the developer by way of private equity, most likely his money and I am reasonably certain that it will be completed.

            Phase II (post – big hole) will be financed by a consortium consisting of cruise industry partnership, private equity through public offering, and a bond issue and will be managed by the Port Authority. I am much less certain about this phase.

            • Anonymous says:

              Guess who owns Atwater? Can you spell West Bay Golden Triangle? Will we again pay twice the assessed value for something that is useless when all is said and done?

              • curious says:

                I know Ms Pilar Bush is their Managing Director. She serve as the Director of Tourism for the Cayman Islands for 4 and a half years from 2004 to 2008, but I don't know anything about what you mean by the West Bay Golden Triangle.

                • Anonymous says:

                  Remember all that land that government bought above market value in WB the last time Mac was in government? If so, there ya go!

            • g.t. says:

              Do you think once a bond is made, it should be safe to go on with the project?

              • frank rizzo says:

                No. The bond issue will help finance Phase II and whoever issues the bond will be responsible for repayment of principal and interest. It will not be a performance bond put up by the developer. A performance bond would not be a bad idea but they are two separate items.

      • Anonymous says:

        It is a known fact that Mr. Imparato has only committed to digging the quarry.  This process is to take seven years.  You can read that in the Deloitte report on his website for the East End Seaport and you can also read that in the EIA that has recently been made public.

        Sorry to let you down, but this is all just a ploy to get at the fill in his land and he could well just leave us with a big hole and nothing more.  If there are not more investors, I'm sure Imparato does not have enough money to see this thing through to the very end. 

      • Anonymous says:

        The rock is worth more than the project – there is no proposal in place for the completion of the dock – the second proposal seems to mention a dock – after so much fuss in the community. logis are reasonable it is like a trap you foresee. or can you not see it?

      • Anonymous says:

        Sounds like someone quarried a big hole into your head. I sure hope they were able to make a profit.

  10. Caymanian Boat Captain says:

    The more appropriate name for it is not "Big Hole" but "East End Canyon or East Canyon"

    • Just Commentin' says:

      No.  "Canyon" sounds too pristine and eco-friendly: think "Grand Canyon".

      Anyway, according to a friend of mine on Cayman Brac, the Brac already has a canyon: the "Grand Canyon" – where Ann Tatum Road comes down off the Bluff near the Creek Dock.

      "Big Hole" it is and "Big Hole" it shall remain.

    • B L Seebub says:

      How about "The Quarry That Dare Not Speak Its Name"?