What is believed to be more than 20,000 cubic yards of sand was excavated from the Savannah Gully recently without the proper authority, Cabinet Minister Arden McLean said Friday.
The Caymanian Compass has learned that the sand, worth an estimated $35 per cubic yard, was excavated by Savannah resident Donald Thompson, managing director of Precision Landscaping Services Ltd.
Mr. McLean said he first heard about the excavation by telephone, and that he did not initially understand the extent of the excavation.
‘I received some phone calls saying the gully was being dug out and all the sand was being taken out,’ Mr. McLean said. ‘I thought it was a clean up of the gully.’
Mr. McLean said the National Roads Authority had been authorised to clear an area of the gully of tree trunks and other debris in advance of the hurricane season. That material only amounted to five or six truck loads in Mr. McLean’s estimation.
What in fact happened was much more significant.
Mr. McLean said he learned that Government was not responsible for the excavation.
‘I visited the site yesterday (last Thursday) at 7 a.m. and the gully was dug out to the bedrock,’ he said. ‘Government was not responsible for that, and Government did not give anyone authority to dig out that gully,’ he said.
Mr. McLean said Government was aware that a private individual who resided close by had offered to assist in the clean up of the gully, but he reiterated that no permission had been given except for that given to the National Roads Authority.
In Mr. McLean’s estimation, between 20,000 and 25,000 cubic yards of sand was excavated from the gully, and he said it is currently being stockpiled on land designated as public open space in the Savannah Acres subdivision.
‘I reported the incident to the Planning Department director, who is currently investigating the issue,’ Mr. McLean said.
The police, however, have not been consulted at this point, Mr. McLean said, because the Planning Department was empowered to deal with the issue.
‘To do mining in this country, there is an authority you have to apply to,’ he said, speaking of the Central Planning Authority.
Those who do not get the necessary permission are guilty of illegal mining Mr. McLean said.
The sand in the gully pre-dates Hurricane Ivan.
‘The sand has been there as long as I can remember,’ Mr. McLean said.
There are currently consultants on the island studying the problems caused when the gully floods during bad storms. Mr. McLean said they are working for a speedy resolution to the problem, but he does not yet know what that solution will entail.
In the meantime, the excavated sand will likely not be put back until the consultants make their recommendations.
‘I had a personal conversation with the gentleman who did this and told him to cease and desist,’ Mr. McLean said, adding that the Planning Director also send out a planning officer to speak with Mr. Thompson to tell him not to use any of the sand removed.
When contacted, Mr. Thompson said he could not comment on the situation.
‘I have been advised not to make any comment about this by the Director of Planning, so I have no comment at this time,’ he said.