Today’s Editorial for January 23: What’s the rush?

Relative to Cayman’s 505-year history since discovery by Christopher Columbus, one week represents less than the time it takes to blink an eyelid.

Yet this is all the Government was willing to concede when asked at a public meeting held 13 January to extend the time of the public consultation concerning the terms of reference of the environmental impact assessment for the proposed port redevelopment project.

Perhaps if the public consultation had been held for a lengthy period to begin with, one extra week would have been sufficient. But, for all intents and purposes, the public consultation started on 13 January, meaning the government merely extended the period from 10 days to 17 days.

For a project that will have wide-ranging and permanent effects on Grand Cayman, we feel the public consultation on the terms of reference on the EIA is just too short.

While most of the comments on the EIA have focused on the potential marine and land impacts on George Town Harbour itself, we believe the terms of reference should also include the impact to residents along Bodden Road and the infrastructure demands the project will create inland, particularly along the route container trucks will travel to get to the Port Authority’s container storage site on Portland Avenue.

One problem with the consultation is that the public knows very little about this port project. It’s very hard to conduct a constructive consultation with the public if the public doesn’t have more complete details about the scope of the project.

The Memorandum of Understanding between the Government, the Port Authority and Atlantic Star Ltd contains virtually no details about what the project entails. Surely someone must have more details about the project; otherwise there would be no basis for the company conducting the EIA to operate.

We are not saying here the port project is necessarily a bad idea. We’re just saying it’s hard to have an opinion without all of the facts.

There seems to be a rush to push this project through. The government wants us to believe the rush concerns the threat to the cruise industry here, which it sees as absolutely vital to the survival of the Cayman economy. They have, however, offered no proof that the cruise lines would pull out of Cayman if the port project is not rushed to completion.

Of course, as residents of the Cayman Islands also know, the next general elections are less than four months away. It’s not hard to imagine the rush to get the port redevelopment started has more to do with the 20 May election date than it does the economic survival of the Cayman Islands.

We urge the government to take the time to ensure the widest of public consultation on this project, especially since so many concerns have been expressed about its possible negative impacts.