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.”
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.
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.
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