North Sound Channel MOU ‘imminent’


    A proposal to dredge a channel in the North Sound is on
    the table, Premier McKeeva Bush has revealed.

    “We have been having discussions [with a developer] so a
    Memorandum of Understanding should be imminent within a couple of weeks,” the
    Premier told the Compass.

    Mr. Bush had told the Legislative Assembly of the intent
    to build a channel through the North Sound in their sitting on Wednesday, 23
    February. Mr. Bush said that the vision is to dredge the channel closest to the
    head of Barkers National Park, which will meet up with the channel at Morgan’s
    Harbour and other extant cuts further south. It was yet to be determined how
    far toward the airport the channel would reach.

    “I would like to see two islands in the area. There was a
    proposal some years ago and it didn’t go forward because of people talking
    without facts. This has been done and it hasn’t destroyed other environments.
    Why do they think it is going to destroy this environment?

    “The North Sound is a body of water that is bigger than
    the island itself. If this was going to threaten the sandbar, for instance, I
    would not even think of it.”


    ‘Alarming’ announcement

    Leader of the opposition Alden McLaughlin said the
    announcement was ‘alarming, to say the least’.

    “We’ve always had reservations about any major dredging
    activity in the North Sound generally, but particularly when there’s been so
    far no impact study of what the possible adverse consequences are likely to be.

    “The one bit that stunned us is this reference to the
    creation of two islands. I was spoken to by a couple of people and the rumour
    is that these are islands of some substance – a mile in diameter each is what I
    was told. That seems to indicate a huge amount of dredging if, in fact, part of
    the whole exercise is to create these islands. In his speech he refers to the
    islands being necessary to make this project viable and then there is some
    vague reference to government putting in the necessary infrastructure. I’m not
    sure what all of that means or what the implications are,” said Mr. McLaughlin.

    Mr. Bush had indicated that the project was to begin by
    the end of the year. That indicated that a policy decision had already been
    taken on the matter, said the opposition leader.

    “This is a major, major policy decision and it needs
    proper thought and widespread consultation before we proceed to say, ‘this is what we definitely are going to do’, let
    alone talk about a project starting by the end of the year.

    “Quite how we get to
    that point without having the necessary studies done, environmental impact
    assessments done, and having what I believe is required, which is wide-scale
    consultation on something so sensitive and critical to Cayman. The North Sound
    is a national treasure and essentially a nursery for the marine life around
    these parts, aside from its aesthetic beauty and the utilisation it’s had for
    generations of Caymanian people and also now a huge tourist attraction with
    Stingray City and the sandbar,” said Mr. McLaughlin.

    Marine regulation
    Mr. Bush added that there was a need for marine regulation that would ensure
    vessels stay in the required channels and not pump out their waste

    “Far too many people
    are doing what they want, pumping out when they want and all these sort of
    things; that’s the kind of stuff that’s destroying the North Sound and
    destroying our marine environment, not this kind of channel.

    The indiscriminate
    pumping out and sewerage going all about, that’s the stuff. If you have proper
    marinas, people would be able to do proper pump-outs, and that we don’t have
    available to us right now.

    safeguards will take place; government will ensure that there’s an
    environmental impact study. And the best environmental advice that can be had
    will direct the project in its entirety,” he said.

    Mr. McLaughlin said
    he did not doubt that there was a market to attract mega yachts to Cayman, but
    that environmental studies must be paramount.

    “It doesn’t provide
    any guarantees, but there is some scientific basis for the conclusions that
    they reach and we should be able to determine with some degree of correctness
    what are the likely impacts given the currents, given the prevailing winds,
    given this, that and the other.

    “My big concern is
    going to be that the statement suggests the government has already taken a
    policy decision that this is what they are doing.

    One then has to
    wonder about the credibility of any impact studies or reports that are
    subsequently done.”


    Mr. Bush


    1. I am shocked, though not surprised, that Mr. Bush has said that dredging a channel through the North Sound is imminent.I dont know how he can say that it will have no negative impact on the environment! I wonder if he has seen aerial photographs taken of our North Sound during the dredging of canals through Safe Haven and the Hyatt canal areas. In them, you can see far reaching, clouds of white silt. Some may argue that the silt dissipates in time, but it never completely goes away. Silt chokes out our corals. They cannot deal with the amount of silt that comes as a result of dredging. I remember the days you could go anywhere in the North Sound, and the water was as crystal clear as it is now at the Stingray Sand Bar. Those days are long gone, thanks to the dredging and deepening of canals. One may argue that the water is filtered by mangroves. But guess what? The government has already allowed the mangroves to be ripped out to make room for other developments.

      I think its time for the people of Cayman to take a stand. To stand up to government and let them know they do not want to support the greed and shortsightedness of such projects. To realise that we must protect our marine environment for future generations.

    2. Many years ago somebody dug a swim hole just off the beach in South Sound. Good idea at the time, create a swim area in an area surrounded by shallow turtle grass beds. Over time all of the sand on the beach was deposited into this swim hole and the beach adjacent to the swim hole disappeared. With waves lapping at the property edge, the owner had to put in place boulders to stop the sea claiming more land. People had to climb over these boulders if they wanted to walk the beach. During storms, 7 Mile beach has massive shifts in sand from north to south and back again. What do you think will happen with the sand in the North Sound? It will end up in the channel. You will forever be dredging the channel to keep it from filling in. If you dont return the sand to its original source there will be huge erosion, and so many more problems will arise. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

    3. Do we just let this man run rampant or will somebody do something to stop his complete destruction of this island?

      Let us not forget the destruction wreaked by Hurricane Ivan due to the loss of mangroves – this will be much worse, in my opinion.

    4. So McKeeva is now an expert in marine ecology?

      It beggars belief that the Government is pressing ahead with this scheme without any effort to properly evaluate the economic and ecological consequences.

      As a layman, the demand for a mega yacht facility seems to me to be pretty illusionary. There simply is not the traffic at this end of the Caribbean. I am no expert, but I rather think the Government should canvass the opinions of someone who is an expert, before embarking on a course of action that may have long reaching and irreversible consequences for an environment that is incredibly precious both in its own right and as a driver for tourism.

      Whats the hurry?

    5. Its easy for the premier to say that this will have no effect on the North Sound. But is he an expert? The answer is no. How can you say this will not effect the sand bar. When bad weather hits and all the sand shifts and ends up in this channel what will be left? Nothing. Islands? If the North Sound was meant to have Islands it would have had them already, naturaly. These will also shift natural flowing currents and further destroy the North Sounds already damaged ecosystem. There is development going on at an alarming rate in the mangrove zones around the island Rite at this moment there is a road going trough some of the last wetlands on the West Bay road peninsula. What will be the effect of this in the long run? Only time will tell but I can bet you it wont be good. Ive read the other comments on this project and Ive seen valid points, even though more people dissagree than agree. I can bet the people dissagreeing have not been here their whole lives or are people who will benefit directly from this, these people need to look at the big picture not just the dollar signes or think its a good idea just because Mackeva says so.

    6. While I am usually all for development of the islands, this seems to be a bit much, Theres talk of the East End Sea Port which Id rather see happen then this. Theres also the redoing of the George Town Seaport. Then theres still Spots, I have to say I do not like the idea of interrupting the natural balance of the North Sound I think they really need to leave that alone. Cant these things be done on the east end where the water is deeper with less impact ? Why cant these big ships just pull up to a port built off the Iron Shore without so much digging ? As far a I understand the water is really deep over there. Am I missing something here..?

    7. Coastal Dynamics is a very complicated discipline and not well understood by many. There are so many variables to consider in dredging and the affects on the coast that CI must take their time and consider well the consequences of such a drastic move in this sensitive ecosystem. Please consider the migration patterns of the conchs as well. I wonder if that wonderful resource would be decimated.
      If indeed the dredging does affect the North Sound detrimentally, consider how many SuperYachts will want to visit or reside in Grand Cayman. Maybe the Bahamas, Turks, or, in the near future, Cuba will become the preferred place to anchor once the North Sound becomes altered from its pristine condition today.

    8. Rushing a project to make BIG DOLLARS! At the end, who gets the money? What happens to our environment? It seems to me that the Premier is looking out for his interest and the well off few!

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