Flood plans ready in July

Possible solutions to deal with flooding problems in Savannah will be made public in July, consultant engineer Mr. Steve Bolt said Tuesday night.

Mr. Bolt was answering questions after a public meeting at the Savannah Primary School on the subject of flood and storm surge mitigation.

A similar session was planned for Wednesday night as well. A brochure about the event referred to it as a public visioning meeting. Residents who attended were asked to look at a large map of the area and identify where they live. Depending on their answer, they were then asked to go to tables with even larger maps to relate their flooding experiences.

Details included their location, the flood events, height of flooding, duration and frequency.

Residents were also requested to fill out a questionnaire that included space for their additional comments and concerns.

A formal presentation in another classroom attracted almost 50 people, who listened as Mr. Bolt explained the project in detail.

The visioning meetings were a listening phase before work on engineering solutions was started, he said. Information from residents will be collated with other data, including aerial photographs and interviews with well diggers and other people with knowledge about the area.

Analysis of data provided would begin the following morning, he pledged. After this stage, possible engineering solutions will be developed and considered along with their potential impact and cost.

Public meetings will then be held in July to present a series of solutions, both interim and long-term. ‘We will seek additional public input and ask for public review and comment,’ he said.

During the group presentation, he mentioned some possible solutions and invited suggestions from listeners. He warned that some of the solution might be viewed as non-traditional. As to the possibility of culverts or drain wells, he commented, ‘I’m not sure that’s effective all the time.’

The Savannah Gully, in an area of public open space near the south coast, came in for some discussion (see sidebar). One woman wondered whether it could be further cleaned out to serve as a catchment. Other people asked about possible erosion. Mr. Bolt said a major concern in that area was that the vegetation was gone.

He revealed that one suggestion he received to mitigate flooding was the construction of a 25-foot wall around the island. Such a structure could turn Grand Cayman into another New Orleans, he said, referring to the flooding that occurred there when levees were breached after Hurricane Katrina last year.

He mentioned the wall idea to illustrate another consideration – cost. At some point someone is going to have to sign a cheque to turn accepted recommendations into reality, he said.

One man wondered if flood water could be funnelled to the old quarry near Pedro Castle. Mr. Bolt said engineers would want to know what kind of rock is under the sand along the way.

He admitted he was surprised to see that the ironshore on the south coast is highly fractured, making it not the best place for a seawall.

Mr. Bolt said solutions to the flooding problems could be site specific at such places as the gully area along Sandy Ground Road and the Shamrock Road thoroughfare.

One idea is to let the water do what it wants, with drainage engineers looking at land contours and plan according to the natural drainage pattern. Mr. Bolt pointed out that the terrain slopes 15 feet from the south coast ironshore bluff to the North Sound.

There may not be one solution to the problem, he advised. There could be a series of solutions. He had heard the message — sooner rather than later; but once recommendations are accepted they will still take time to engineer and construct, he said.

The company he is with, Orth-Rodgers & Associates Inc. came to Cayman in August 2003 to talk with the National Roads Authority about storm water management island-wide, he said. Then came Hurricane Ivan in September 2004. Cayman had almost recovered from Ivan when Hurricane Wilma brought flooding in October 2005.

The Orth-Rodgers team returned to Cayman this March to restart the project. ‘We were re-directed by the Ministry from island-wide water management to the Savannah Gully,’ Mr. Bolt said.

Mr. Arden McLean, Minister for Communications, Works and Infrastructure, confirmed that the Savannah flooding was part of an island-wide water management project, but it had priority because of how flooding from Hurricane Wilma had put a chokehold on Cayman because so many people in the Eastern districts could not get into George Town.

Mr. McLean pointed out that Wilma was the first experience he had had as Minister and it made him determined that something would be done.

He said costs of mitigation solutions would come from the country’s Environmental Fund.

Sand removal

The person who removed sand from the Savannah Gully has been given 14 days to restore the area to its original condition, Minister for Works Arden McLean said Tuesday night.

He was not sure of the exact deadline, but noted he had reported the matter to the Planning Department, which has authority to deal with enforcement (Caymanian Compass, 24 April).

If you value our service, if you have turned to us in the past few days or weeks for verified, factual updates, if you have watched our live streaming of press conferences or sent an article to a friend... please consider a donation. Quality local journalism was at risk before the coronavirus crisis. It is now deeply threatened. Even a small amount can go a long way to sustaining our mission of informing the public. We need our readers’ financial support now more than ever.