A project involving the dredging of a channel from Salt Water Pond to the sea in order to construct a marina has been proposed by a group of Cayman Brac businessmen.
Cleveland Dilbert, developer and owner of the Alexander Hotel overlooking Salt Water Pond, confirmed he has submitted plans to Cabinet for approval. A Cabinet decision is scheduled for 23 September.
At a public meeting on economic issues on Cayman Brac in August, Leader of Government Business McKeeva Bush already indicated that he would approve the construction of a marina and the plans for Salt Water Pond, which is classed as an environmentally protected area, to be dredged. ‘I promise you that when those things come before … the Cabinet, it will have my go ahead,’ Mr. Bush said.
If granted approval by Cabinet, plans will be submitted to the Development and Control Board for the Sister Islands, Mr. Dilbert said. He explained the idea for the project was born from conversations he had with other Brackers, most of them boat owners, who believe that a marina would benefit the Brac, which has no safe harbour for yachts and small boats.
Mr. Dilbert stated that together with local businessmen he had formed a company that would take over the construction and management of the marina.
‘This is not going to be a profit making endeavour,’ he explained. ‘We will hopefully sell enough fill to finance the project.’ In the event that the project should make a profit from the dredging of the pond and selling the landfill, Mr. Dilbert said, this money would be invested in the surrounding areas of the marina. If, however, it was not sufficient to fund the project, the consortium members would be prepared to make the necessary additional financial contributions themselves. ‘This is not going to cost the government anything,’ he said.
Mr. Dilbert added, ‘I don’t want to give the wrong impression.
‘Of course this is also going to help us with the hotel and the other property owners in the area,’ he said with regard to the smell that is often emanating from Salt Water Pond and affecting his hotel business and the added value the marina would bring to adjacent properties.
He does not anticipate a great deal of dissent to the project, claiming that although there will always be someone who criticises, the feedback he had received so far was only positive.
Salt Water Pond, also known as Dennis Point Pond, is classed as an animal sanctuary by the Animals Law and as such an environmentally protected area that is home to a number of bird species, including whistling ducks. The animal sanctuary encompasses six hectares of marine area and 15 hectares in total.
The coastal area close to the pond, which would also be impacted by the development, is classed both as a marine park and a replenishment zone.
With regard to a potential impact on the environment, Mr. Dilbert said that there is no wildlife in the pond as such, as it is a salt water pond. While whistling ducks were in the area, most of them would come to his hotel because they are fed there, he said.
Mr. Bush was unconcerned about the environmental impact, saying at the meeting in August that it may be necessary to ‘shift the road a bit, chase away a few whistling ducks, but so be it, that’s common law’.
Mr. Dilbert said he might build a pond, with some form of water feature to oxygenate the water, which could serve as an alternative habitat for the ducks. He said he was also prepared to finance an environmental impact study.
The Director of the Department of Environment Gina Ebanks-Petrie confirmed that an application had been forwarded to her from the Ministry and the department is in the process of reviewing the application. It was therefore premature to comment on the application itself, but she explained that the Animals Law provided only for a narrow scope to exempt any activity to alter an area that is classed as an animal sanctuary.
The alternative would be for the government to de-list Dennis Point Pond as an animal sanctuary. However this would, in her understanding, require an amendment of the law, Ms Ebanks-Petrie said.
She clarified that the department of environment only has an advisory role in the planning and application process.
If, as indicated, a channel is dug from the sea through to the pond, Cabinet is responsible for the approval of the work on the seabed and the Development and Control Board must approve the work on land.