A group of Savannah residents say a proposed wall designed to protect the Savannah gully from flooding during hurricanes is just a political quick-fix that will make new areas prone to flooding.
The group has written to Works and Infrastructure Minister Arden McLean and Bodden Town MLA’s Anthony Eden, Charles Clifford and Osbourne Bodden outlining their concerns, but they say the Government is ignoring them.
Lindbergh Eden, Hartman DaCosta, Sandra Coe, Howard Jackson and Claudette Eden have all put their name to the letter, and they think community sentiment is behind them.
They concede they don’t have scientific or engineering reports to back their claims, but say their lifetime of experience living near the gully means they know it as well as anyone.
On a tour of the area Wednesday morning, Mr. DaCosta said the wall will divert water to the east and west of the wall, making new areas prone to flooding.
‘If they really want to do this, they will have to put a wall around the whole island. Just look at the way water comes in at Prospect and South Sound,’ he said.
Mr. Jackson says the CI$4 million to CI$6 million the Government plans to spend could be better used building the banks of the Savannah Gully higher and creating a more effective drainage system that allows the water to follow it’s natural path, emptying east of North Side Estates in North Sound.
He suggests raising the flood prone part of road near the intersection of Shamrock Rd and Homestead Crescent and laying a wide culvert underneath for water to flow through. ‘You’ve got to have a natural solution,’ he said. ‘This is the only sensible solution because you’re not interfering with nature, you are following it.’
Mr. McLean has said the wall will be ‘somewhere around 2,000 feet’ long and will be built in two sections, about 400 to 500 feet inland. The Government says the wall will not be the entire solution for the Savannah Gully problem, but it should alleviate some of the flooding.
Predicted to cost between CI$4 million and CI$6 million, the Government is waiting to see a new design after they sent the original Orth-Rodgers & Associates design back. They have asked the US engineering firm to report back by early October about the costs and other associated parameters for changing the wall to prevent overtopping from a Category 3 hurricane, rather than a Category 2 standard, to which it is currently designed.
In their letter to legislators, the residents argue that the original design will be ineffective.
‘A Category 2 hurricane is not a problem with flooding,’ they write. ‘Only strong Category 3 to 5 hurricanes that pass within 200 miles of our south shores cause flooding here. Recent hurricanes have pointed this fact out clearly. Hurricane Dean, a Category 5 storm, passed 115 miles south of the gully; as expected it flooded the gully. Two weeks later, Hurricane Felix another Category 5 storm, passed 330 miles south of us with no flooding!’
‘ … in recent history only Hurricanes Gilbert ’88, Mitch ’98, Ivan 04, Wilma ’06 and Dean ’07 have flooded the gully and met all the above criteria of Cat. 3 to 5 within 200 miles of the Savannah Gully.’
Government was given a chance to respond to these charges but had not returned calls and emails at the time of going to print.
The residents fear Government is now pressuring Orth-Rogers to design a bigger wall than ironshore can withstand.
‘When they did all the drilling tests, they found soft spots, they found caves. Common sense tells you that it will hurt the environment,’ said Mrs. Coe, who lives on the gully’s west side.
The group is also questioning who Mr. McLean was referring to when he said in the Legislative Assembly 13 September: ‘The wall is in two sections, to protect one property in particular; to ensure that one property is protected.’
‘Whose property is this? Who is better than anyone else?’ asked Mrs. Coe.
Mrs. Coe said she is unsure where the group’s campaign will go next: ‘I don’t know what else we can do but at least we can say we have tried our best – but they are not listening to us.’
‘This government has no respect for the voice of the community,’ added Mr. Hartman.
Mr. McLean, Mr. Eden, Mr. Clifford and Mr. Bodden were invited to hear the residents’ concerns Wednesday but none accepted the invitation.