The Environmental Impact Assessment for the port expansion project is to start in January, triggering the start of the public consultation exercise.
The firm chosen to perform the EIA is US-based CH2M HILL. The company will assess any potential impact on the environment by the project, which involves the separation of cruise and cargo facilities and the construction of berthing facilities.
The Department of Environment chose CH2M HILL out of three firms that submitted proposals. The three firms were nominated by applicants Atlantic Star Limited and the Port Authority.
‘The proposals contained the firms’ professional qualifications and relevant experience, based on an extensive list of topics which we believed were likely to be areas of study during the EIA,’ explained Acting Director with the Department of the Environment, Scott Slaybaugh. ‘Although each proposal showed strengths in many areas, the firm of CH2M HILL clearly scored highest overall.
‘The DoE is confident that CH2M HILL and their subcontracted partners will be capable of providing the information required through the EIA in order to facilitate decision-making for this complex project. The DOE has worked with the consulting firm CH2M HILL in 2000 during the aggregate study and found the company to be professional and competent.’
There has been some criticism of the fact that the developer nominated the three firms, but chief officer in the Ministry of Tourism and Environment Gloria McField-Nixon emphasised that the selection happens within DoE and they had more than one firm to choose from.
‘The decision making, in terms of who is going to do this, is being vested in an agency whose primary concern is the environment and so the adequacy of this firm is what is the leading decision maker in the process, as opposed to some of the insinuations that [Atlantic Star Ltd.] is getting someone that will tell them what ASL wants to know. Even though ASL is footing the bill, they don’t choose who they work with. That was chosen by DoE,’ she said.
Although the EIA firm was determined around Thanksgiving, Ms McField-Nixon said that the DoE, ASL and CH2M HILL felt it would be most effective to commence the process after the holidays.
The first phase of the EIA, expected to start in January, is going to involve consultation on the scope of the exercise. The total cost for phase one of the EIA with CH2M HILL is US$48,720, Ms McField-Nixon confirmed. The Port Authority is the sole applicant for this phase and will pay 50 per cent of the costs with the other 50 per cent donated by ASL.
Phase one will be broad-based public consultation along with more targeted stakeholder meetings, where individuals who have particular expertise in areas – such as commerce or the marine environment – will have more focus group consultation.
‘The EIA is structured so that every effort that can be given to ensuring public consultation is being given,’ said Ms McField-Nixon.
‘Even before the technical work of testing will commence there is phase one which is the public consultation phase. They will take their proposed scope to the public and receive feedback on whether they feel that scope is adequate or there are other views about what people feel needs to be monitored in the process.’
She noted that Atlantic Star Ltd already has some data from around 10 months of monitoring tidal movements and the marine environment.
Once scoping has been completed, phase two of the EIA would consist of actual testing and is expected to be a joint application between ASL and the Port Authority, said Ms McField-Nixon.
The DoE provided an estimate of at least three to four months for the EIA, said Ms McField-Nixon.
‘Once you begin testing and the scoping is completed you’ll get a better understanding of what you’re running into, but from the preliminary list of things that they felt needed to be tested their estimate was a minimum of three to four months.’
The chief officer encouraged people to get involved in the process once the EIA commences.
‘I certainly hope that having this information that the public will choose to be involved and to make sure that in doing so, they balance their responsibilities to those individuals who are dependent upon the cruise sector for their livelihood, but also to future generations who are depending on decisions we make now to ensure that we are responsible stewards of our environment.’
She said increasingly this type of balancing act will be pursued.
‘It is a daunting task but it is necessary if we’re going to make major strides towards sustainable development and we are essentially subjecting ourselves in this port project to the rigours of the process that would be deployed by the National Conservation Bill, so in the spirit of that bill we have pursued this EIA process and it’s important to demonstrate that you can be responsible in your environmental considerations and still do good business.’