Public urged to comment on ToRs for cruise port EIA

| 21/11/2013

CNS): Government officials in the Department of Environment say the public has until Friday 6 December to submit their thoughts, comments and concerns on the terms of reference (ToRs) that will guide any independent agency which will be contractedto undertake the Environmental Impact Assessment for the planned George Town Cruise berthing facilities. The EIA is a critical part of the process, as the strategic business case for the proposed project revealed a catalogue of potential environmental problems with the port. It is the EIA that will inform the government about whether or not the risks to critical environmental resources is worth what ever economic benefits the development of a cruise port would bring.

The government has stated on numerous occasions that if the risks are too great, especially to the jewel in Cayman’s crown – Seven Mile Beach, it would not go ahead with the project. As a result, the DoE is keen to ensure that the terms of reference cover the entirety of the potential impact of the project on Grand Cayman and that nothing is omitted.

DoE Director Gina Ebanks-Petrie said she wanted the public to feel that all of their concerns would be examined during the EIA and to ensure that those concerns, if they were not already covered in the draft document, were included.

While a public meeting on Wednesday night gave people a chance to hear the presentation from the authors of the draft ToRs, Mott MacDonald Limited (MML), anyone who missed the meeting can still submit their comments and concerns over the next two weeks.

At the end of this consultation and discussion period, which has included stakeholder meetings, the ToRs will be reviewed and redrafted to include anything that could have been overlooked, the DoE director explained. Based on the public consultation, the redrafted ToRS will be drawn up in collaboration with the government’s Environmental Advisory Board, which includes representatives from departments of Environment, Planning, Tourism, the Port Authority, the National Museum and the National Roads Authority.

The final terms of reference will then be submitted to government, which will begin the competitive process to find an independent agency to conduct the assessment based on these terms, which is why they are so important and need to be comprehensive. The draft ToRs, which the public can now examine, are based on the findings of the strategic business case that was undertaken by local consultants, PricewaterhouseCoopers, who had commissioned MML.

Despite government’s enthusiasm for a cruise berthing facility, there are very real concerns that the environmental risk may well outweigh the anticipated benefit to cruise tourism, which is still only a part of the local tourism product and one that many still believe has a detrimental impact on overseas tourism.

The Department of Tourism has worked exceptionally hard over the last few years to successfully attract record breaking overnight visitor numbers, but there are concerns that a surge in cruise ship visitors in George Town may undermine the success of stay-over tourism, which has a much wider economic benefit and a far lower environmental impact.

Nevertheless, the PPM government campaigned during the May 2013 on a commitment to developing two piers in George Town, with only limited upland development and supported by the cruise lines. The government has also committed to follow an open and transparent procurement process via competitive tendering which meets international best practice.

The EIA comes ahead of the request for proposals, which will go out to potential developers and cruise-lines partners as the project will be determined by the environmental findings.

If the risks are too great the project may be halted. However, if the EIA finds that the environmental risks can be mitigated, then whoever wins the bid project will be expected to follow those findings to address the potential risks identified.

Category: Science and Nature

Comments (13)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    How many more crap t-shirts are the fat tourists going to buy?

  2. Anon says:

    I just say – WHY TAKE A CHANCE ON DESTROYING SEVEM MILE BEACH.

    We cNt mess around with mother nature and not pay a price (in this case, a very high price).

    I can't understand why dredging in George Town would even be considered, EIA or no EIA. Obviously no one can guarantee what the outcome will be – so WHY TAKE THE CHANCE??? It's gambling with the future of the country. 

    • Anonymous says:

      Does it really matter what we have to say??? We were against what has happened on West Bay Road and it was still done, we were against the building of the Ritz and it is still done, we were against South Sound dredging and it is still being done…the list is endless…government WILL NEVER TAKE THE PEOPLE'S OPINIONS….

      • Anonymous says:

        So 17:13, is there ANY development you are in favor of or are you one of those who oppose everything simply to resist change?

  3. Anonymous says:

    Cayman needs a port badly and we cannot afford to turn our backs on the cruise lines. But George Town is not the best place to build it, (maybe from an economic perspective since that is where the businesses are) but certainly not from an environmental perspective. If we washed ashore today and looked to develop this island, clearly we would use the natural harbour of the North Sound for a pier, and centrally locate our dump away from the capital and highest concentration of people. We can build new strip malls and restaurants overnight, but we cannot reverse the environmental damages of building this pier in the wrong location, simply b/c its more convenient to existing shop owners in GT. Lets build the piers, but lets do it properly. 

    • Anonymous says:

      The fundamental reality is that this nation does not have a naturally occuring 40 foot deep protected harbour the size of several football fields to accomodate 4-6 Oasis class ships, but that doesn't mean we should pulverize a national marine park (and top 5 snorkelling attraction) in a contrived effort to speed up the debarkation process!  Regardless of the state of infrastructure, the constants are human: cruise ship passengers onboard are still going to line up to eat their all-included breakfast package, go back upstairs to change and go tothe toilet, apply their sunscreen, and get ready for shore excursion, line up to debark, and offload.  There would still be lineup complaints, and delayed debarkation even with piers, and there would still be immigration and customs lines on the Cayman side.  That is never going to change.  I have chatted with many cruiseship captains and they have all told me they could very easily arrive at Grand Cayman much earlier in the morning, but that there was no point since passengers did not want to leave til they had conducted their rituals, and Cayman's immigration officials were never prepared to arrive early to clear passengers anyway.  If we could fix our end of the human problem and get immigration personal to open our side earlier, perhaps there would be more hours in the day for activities while simultaneously alleviating the debarkation pressures of tendering – with the message that no reefs were harmed in doing so!

  4. Anonymous says:

    "Public urged to comment"….what kind of expertise this general public possesses to comment?  Why is not  Mount Trashmore the number one priority ?  

  5. Anonymous says:

    Clouded water from silt and stinky Mount Trashmore will finish CI as a tourist destination. What would they do then???? 

  6. Anonymous says:

    I'm far too busy commenting on other things that I know absolutely nothing about.

  7. Anonymous says:

    It would be hard to imagine any sane person reading the impacts described in this very preliminary EIA and coming away sold that this is a sound idea.  

    The initial cost benefit analysis is flawed from the outset:  Design/Construct Piers est $100mln, upland, security/maint, NRA revamp of GT est $100mln = $200mln.  Economic Benefit is optimistically estimated at $220mln over 20 years.  Factoring in a conservative assumption on 20 years of inflation and lost opportunity cost (and/or financing capacity), and the financial impact quickly inverts to negative and accellerates south from there.

    Not only is the financial prognosis bleak, but the laundry list of environmental destruction in this national "marine park" is extreme, irreversible, and ongoing once we start down this path.  The massive dredging will alter water chemistry and cause "reef smothering" turbidity that will radiate north up seven mile beach from the harbour.  Follow-up maintenance dredging and daily prop-wash will forever suspend particulate in a milky white solution.  There are pages and pages and pages of professional assessment in this Mott MacDonald paper.  If anyone is left unconvinced, they offer several additional follow on water/air/sediment chemistry tests, bathymetric models, and wave and current studies to further disuade us from proceeding, though happy they will be to oblige us with the obvious and expensive data!  

    The benefit can only be there for those so overtly blinded by their own selfish vanity, ambition, and/or greed.  The PPM were elected because they were the only party that wasn't the UDP.  It was not because the popular vote was in favour of an encore to the Clifton Hunter fiasco.   

     

     

      

    • Last Resort says:

      Very well put. The govt that approves this disaster in the making will forever be remembered. And not in a good way.

      And all so that a few merchants can peddle Chinese made garbage to rednecks on $400 cruises.

      Sad.

      • Anonymous says:

        Well said.  They say GT is dying, but  you can't park anywhere near the centre.  Shops are boarded because those visitors are not buying what is on offer, not because we need  to berth their ships

         

  8. And Another Ting says:

    Look peeps, this whole ting, about the EIS is a waste of money, and we seem to like throwing money away. It is clear as the sky or the sea on a beautiful day, that if you dredge and put up piers that there will be ecological damage. Most Caymanians know the effect of removing the natural habitat and a clear reminder Is the Marriott Hotel and their historical sea wall, which affected the contour of the beach. Just imagine that effect thousands of time over, with the natural flow changed and the effect of silt from dredging, a disaster.

    Remember politicos, the future of our children and generations to come lies in your hands, if you muck it up your names will be mud forever and Iver.  And Another Ting.