George Town to vet green impact on pier project

Published on : Sunday, November 17, 2013

download-119Environment issues have cropped up again in the scheme of development projects. The piers to be built in George Harbour may have certain environmental impacts. The threat of erosion on Seven Mile Beach has been highlighted as one of the potential environmental impacts of the multimillion-dollar project to build new cruise piers in George Town.

An initial “desk-based” environmental review warned that the level of dredging required in George Town harbour would affect wave heights and “sediment transport” along the coast, prompting concerns about the impact on the island’s most treasured natural attraction.
Early assessments are that the impact will be manageable, but politicians insist they will wait for the findings of a full Environmental Impact Assessment before taking a final decision on whether the pier project can proceed.

A public meeting has been set for November 20 at Mary Miller Hall in Red Bay for residents to review and comment on “terms of reference” outlining the scope and approach of the environmental study.

The full study will be carried out by private consultants following a competitive bid process and will take place over eight months next year.

“We don’t want at the end of this for someone to say, we should have looked at this or we should have looked at that,” said tourism councilor Joey Hew. “Everyone has an opportunity to raise their concerns. Nothing that anyone cares about should be missed.”

The initial review, conducted by engineering consultants Mott McDonald, highlighted the expected impact on Seven Mile Beach among a number of potential problems. The project requires 626,000 cubic meters of dredging – equivalent to 250 Olympic-size swimming pools.

The excavation of the sea bed required to achieve that level of dredging is expected to lead to “sediment impacts” elsewhere.

“There is concern over potential impacts on the Seven Mile Beach area to the north of the port,” the report states.

It adds that any “beach quality sand” recovered through dredging could be used to replenish beaches affected by erosion.

The EIA will also examine other environmental concerns, including the threat to marine life and habitats, impact on tides and currents in the harbour and the effect of increased tourist numbers on quality of life in Cayman.

Other impacts highlighted in Mott McDonald’s initial review include the loss of two shipwrecks – the Balboa and the Cali, which are described as popular dive sites but not “archaeologically significant.”

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