November 15, 2019

The Editor speaks: The KEY concerns of the CPR

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Colin Wilson

have been busy over the past weeks to come up with their KEY CONCERNS over the Cruise Port Project.

In a Press Release yesterday (19) they have found SIX. But hold on a minute, the release says Part 1.and there is going to be two more parts not yet released. You can bet there will be a poring of the minds from their executive committee to come up with the other two and to muddy the waters further.

It’s what you call stretching it out. The more words the more the mud to dull the brains. Who was it who said “more letters baffles brains?”

To be just and fair I have listed their six ‘concerns’:

1. Berthing facility design

Following the preferred bidder announcement on 29 July 2019, no design has been made public showing numerical data to quantify the direct impact of the footprint including dredge area, concrete area and location relative to the surrounding marine ecosystems of coral reefs, hard pan and sandy bottom habitat, and historic ship wrecks.

2. Marine Habitat loss

The 2015 design, which the Environmental Impact Assessment (the Baird Report) was conducted on, proposed direct dredging involving permanent and irreversible removal of 15 acres of coral reef and total dredging of 32 acres of seabed. A footprint with 20% less dredging directly excavates 12 acres of invaluable marine habitat, 25.6 acres of seabed in total, in addition to indirect lethal and sublethal impacts on surrounding reefs.

3. Sedimentation

Lethal and sub-lethal sedimentation from (a) dredging during (i) construction (ii) periodically during operation as well as (b) cruise ship thrusters during operation, will impact marine ecosystems approximately 220m surrounding the immediate dredged area (Baird Non-Technical Summary Section 14, illustrated in Figure 14.1). The public needs to have information on the design to see how extensive this indirect negative consequence will be.

(There is a picture Fig 14.1 taken from “publicly available reports” that we have to find to verify this and other information they have used. Can you imagine anyone really spending the time to search this?)

4. Water clarity

Dredging of limestone and coral material creates milky white ‘clouds’ in the water column clearly observable at other port locations around the Caribbean. Cayman is famous for our enviable, over 100ft visibility, of water clarity. George Town Harbour’s breath-taking crystal-clear aquamarine waters are the first view of Grand Cayman for both air and cruise arrivals. This will be lost forever, replaced by a cloudy murky sea we are more familiar with only during Nor’westers (but without the high waves). Are we prepared for this irreversible loss and the immediate disappointment of our visitors?

5. Air pollution

Air Pollution risks, monitoring and mitigation have not been highlighted by the government despite an entire section of the Baird Report dedicated to air quality (Appendix G). Perhaps this is unsurprising as the Cayman Islands has no numerical standards on ambient air quality. There will be significantly more air pollution as a result of ships closer to shore and increased road traffic. Does government have any pollution mitigation strategies? How is government planning to prevent health-related illnesses from increased air pollution? Will government provide better health insurance over and above the SHIC plan? Is it fair that those working and living in the immediate George Town Harbour area are exposed to these toxic fumes?

6. Wave heights

Low-lying George Town residents and merchants risk an increased susceptibility of storm flooding once the natural occurring coastal coral reef defenses are permanently destroyed. Seawalls are costly, unsightly and protection is not guaranteed.

Parts 2 and 3 will examine the proposed coral relocation, socio-economic considerations, job opportunities, infrastructure impacts, carrying capacity and the financing model.

In conclusion, we wish to emphasise the importance of ensuring the referendum question chosen by Cabinet fairly reflects the original petition wording and is clear, easy to understand for voters and ensures fairness and objectivity.

END

Let us hope the question Cabinet choose will indeed be fair and not heavily weighted with opinions for the Cruise Port project as all the above “key concerns” against it are.

It is fine to have concerns but it is not fair to also add in your negative comments that appear as facts.

I await with anticipated head shakes and groans at what the next part will include. Please don’t be fooled readers by it. Keep an open mind. Re look at their “concerns” and the comments along with them that have no sound factual basis at all.

And also ask yourselves why they didn’t add numbered appendices so we could ourselves check their “facts” and read for ourselves the context they were written. Muddy water – I can’t see the bottom of the bucket it is contained in!

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