Letters to the Editor: Addressing the North Sound

All of us know and understand that
the global economy is still facing significant challenges following the most
recent economic downturn… as a result, the Cayman Islands economy is also
facing our own economic challenges.

As a Government, we have been
working hard, day and night, to address our economic challenges, provide relief
to our people and to put the Cayman Islands on track for future success.

We have listened to many
suggestions, read many proposals and participated in many discussions on
proposed initiatives and projects. Everything with merit has been considered;
and especially with more complex or controversial projects, taken adequate time
to make a proper assessment of potential costs and benefits.

I would like to take this
opportunity to provide an update of some of the key initiatives that the Government
is considering that will undoubtedly help boost our economic capacity and help
put in place sustainable growth opportunities for all of us in the Cayman Islands.

One such initiative is the
possibility of developing a channel in the North Sound. This channel will help
to protect the North Sound by providing designated waterways for boats to enter
and cross the North Sound without stirring up silt from the bottom. This will
be accomplished by connecting the existing cuts to this channel, providing
uninterrupted travel across the North Sound without disturbing the sea bottom.

It will actually improve the
underwater environment and wildlife because of the cooling effect of deeper
water. 

The channel will also enable us to
accommodate mega yachts that will bring more business opportunities and jobs
for Caymanians

As part of our evaluation process,
the immediate plan is to commission a comprehensive environmental impact study.
Such a study will include the methodology that will be utilised in the project.
The study will be conduct by one the world’s top marine scientist. 

Following the preliminary
preparations, which will include the Impact Analysis and consideration for
current knowledge of the North Sound, there is no definitive plan at this time
to begin the project. It is premature for the public to make assumptions,
whilst the Government is currently trying to assess the situation and make the
proper evaluations. The event of developing this channel will depend entirely
on the environmental study. I want to assure you that this project will not go
ahead if the environmental impact study says it will damage the North Sound.

To address many of the concerns and
give consideration to our already existing protected areas , namely the Sand
Bar, this channel will be located approximately over two miles from the Sand
Bar, utilizing  the present channel by
Barkers Key.  Based on existing data, it
will not be necessary to develop the channel to a depth of 50 feet. It is
already 200 feet wide and about 16 feet deep. I envision that the channel
coming through the North Sound to be not more than 20 feet deep.

To those people who are familiar
with the North Sound, there are many existing channels that have been excavated
and there has been much coastal works done in previous years.

In the event that a channel will be
developed, the current inlets and pre-existing small channels into canals will
all be used to connect to the proposed channel.

These ideas for creating a channel
are not new, but have been suggestions from me. In 2003 I made some
suggestions. If we had continued along the lines of achieving some of these
projects, from as far back as 2003, our economy would not have suffered as
severely as it has since the end of 2007.

The world economic crisis hit us
fully in 2008 and we were not ready. There was already unemployment and that
has increased. The Government’s finances were shot to pieces during 2005 to
2009.

Because of the situation that we
have now found ourselves in, we have had to implement increased fees, suffer
severe deficits, loss of revenue and experience increased unemployment and
witness the closure of many small businesses. These are but a few of the challenges
that we as a country have faced together.

If we had been vigilant enough and
continued our planned developments that I talked about in 2003-2004, our
economy could have been booming today despite the world crisis.

Personally, my vision was that these
projects would have created a buoyant economy and lessened our reliance on the
outside world.

If we do not find new ways to
sustain our economy, we will continue to find it increasingly difficult to turn
the situation around.

It is because of the financial
crisis around the world that we must look to new local ventures for sustainability.
Some prospective projects that may be viable in the Cayman Islands are: the new
channel in the North Sound, the development of a Special Economic Zone, the
establishment of an oil refinery and the development of a new cruise berthing
facility and a cargo dock.

The idea of an oil refinery has
been raised before and I would like to highlight some of the benefits that a
project of this nature would bring to our local economy:

Fuel prices are very high and are
now increasing

It will lessen dependence on
outside producers to supply refined petroleum

It will lower cost basis for
refined products

It will lower cost basis for power
generation – CUC cost to us

 It lowers the cost of living for every
resident of the Cayman Islands. Companies will pay less for electricity and
therefore have to charge less

Increases storage capacity for
petroleum
products on island

Will resolve issues regarding
current location of petroleum storage tanks

Produce aviation fuel locally to
support long haul flights – Cayman Airways Ltd. would be enhanced 100 per cent

Creates employment

Allows Government to attract new
industries for the Cayman Islands

Increases our Gross Domestic
Product

Reduces our trade imbalance

Allows regional and global trade of
crude

There is too much talk to
discourage without facts.

I am mindful of the fact that after
Hurricane Ivan, I was criticized for bringing back the cruise ships. I’m also
aware that the PPM, people such as Bryan Ebanks, Peter Milburn and others,
criticized me for bringing so many cruise ships. When the PPM took over people
in this industry suffered.

My friends, we can’t keep saying
“No” to everything – because when the world gets into a problem, as it is in
today, and has been from the end of 2007, Caymanians suffer – we lose jobs, we
lose businesses, we lose houses, we lose the ability to make money because
nothing happens here.

If we create business that is
sustainable – a refinery, a channel – it will not only generate Government
revenue, opportunities and benefits will be created for our people. If we do
nothing, -we don’t want foreigners here, we don’t want a channel, we don’t want
an oil refinery, we don’t want a dock – what do we get? We get what is going on
now; a lot of people hurting! The status quo is not an option.  We are in a position, both as a result of the
global economy and the natural maturity of our existing economic growth areas,
that we need to diversify. 

This is to say that we are not
abandoning our economic pillars of tourism and financial services. On the
contrary, those sectors will benefit if we can keep our economy robust and
progressive. We are also speaking today about what we are doing over and above
supporting the policy and development goals for those industries.

As a Government, we welcome
constructive feedback and suggestions on possible areas to explore and would
welcome the opportunity to meet with those who are willing to discuss their
options in this way.  

All those people who are against
everything – but in particular against the dock, the North Sound Channel, a
refinery – where have their facts come from? Besides being critics on everything
do they have answers as to how we make these Islands sustainable in the long
term?

Ezzard Miller has gone on Rooster
radio and said that an unmarked envelope was left on his car windshield. Inside
the envelope was what is purported to be the plans for the dredging of a
channel and the building of two islands in the North Sound. I can you assure
that I have seen the plan he speaks of and those drawings have nothing to do
with what I’m talking about. How irresponsible can a person be to get a set of
unidentified drawings and then proceed to speak publicly as if they are genuine
without verifying it? Those same plans are now published on the Rooster
website, again how can a radio station be so irresponsible as to publish unverified
plans on their website. 

Positive suggestions rather than
negative comments are what are needed. 

If the United Kingdom, USA, the G8
or G20 ever succeed in their various efforts in severely curtailing financial
businesses in countries such as these Islands- where will the business come
from – to keep people employed – create jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities
for the hundreds of children coming out of school each year?

When the next big crisis hits the
world – after what we have gone through since 2005 – and are still suffering
the effects of that government, what jobs will be created? Where will the
business community get business? How will small businesses survive? Where, and
how, will people get money to save their homes or their business – and where
will Government get the revenue to provide the essential services and support
that we do now and pay for education, health services and pensions for the
elderly and seamen?

Some people are prepared to oppose
everything because they are satisfied with how they are surviving – that is
because they don’t care about other people. Those politicians, who get on the
radio weekly to oppose everything, don’t care how you are able to live – if you
believe them, and then re-elect them – no matter what group – then you pay –
they are satisfied – and you will not get ahead. That is what happened in
2005-2009.

The country must move ahead. We
should not and must not put all our eggs in one basket or rely on any one
sector or industry, such as we have to do now.

We should believe or accept that in
order for these Islands to do as I believe we should – that is, to make
businesses so successful that we can have jobs, 
live decently and businesses can be so successful that people can have
money to spend… we will have to make sacrifices to get something.

I do not believe a channel will
destroy the North Sound. We are not digging hundreds of acres of the wetlands;
we are not touching the wetlands. Every time I’ve been in Government, we have
increased wetlands by dozens of acres. Because I did things that we could
increase the amount of land Government owns.

The North Sound is a vast expanse
of water, bigger than the Island itself. We are not going to depths more than
20 feet. It will not go near the Sand Bar. It is two miles or more away from
the proposed channel. If we built two islands they would prove to be buffers for
the shoreline.

While we must consider “what if”,
we can’t live our lives in fear of “what if”. But I urge everyone not to talk
before you have the facts. Be careful of who you listen to out there no matter
how good it sounds.

You probably will be asked to sign
a petition against this channel. I ask you to wait until you have the facts
before you make up your mind for it or against it.

The investments I have been talking
about will not be done by Caymanians because no Caymanian has that kind of
money to invest. But there will be Caymanians involved and Caymanians all over
the Islands will benefit.

Tourists are coming back again. But
that alone cannot sustain us. I propose that islands be built and that it be
used by the people, particularly the operators in the North Sound for local
tourism purposes. The Bahamas has its fish fry on Arawak Key- a place that was
dredged up. Barbados has a similar venue that was a natural place which tourists
and local people flock to all the time. 

All that exist here now is the Sand
Bar – that alone will not sustain tourism. If we build two islands one of the
islands will be for the North Sound operators to use.  These are just ideas now as the channel will
only go ahead if the environmental study says it will not damage the North
Sound.

When investors see petitions being
circulated, they will question whether in fact these islands want investment. A
petition might be against a channel but what next?  …condos … hotels… a refinery? When will the
negative and destructive talk end? It makes investors uneasy.

If you really want nothing to
happen and if you really believe the talk – no matter how good it sounds –
without facts, then I guess no matter what I say or a study says you are
against it. But I pray you consider what I have said, as what I have said are
all facts and for your own benefit.

As your elected representative for
27 years – I have to live here – I have a child and I have grandchildren. I
have nowhere else to live. I’m not going to do something that puts life at
risk.

Understand this, there will not be
a channel before an Environmental Impact Study is conducted. If the study, and
good reason, says that we should not go ahead – it will not move forward.

As the Bible says, “Come let us
reason together.”  It is for your long
term good that I propose these projects.

 

Premier McKeeva Bush

 

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4 COMMENTS

  1. I remember not long ago something being said about the cumbersome of red-tape. I am glad to hear that the project approval will be based on the results of an independent environmental Impact study. If the plans for this project is at a stage able to be assessed for environmental impact, we should all be able to see them.. So far an oil refinery, shiver me timbers, a man-made island, pass the grog, a trench through the north sound, I have to sleep on that, hoping the trench do have a positive effect.
    Bottom line; show me the trickle down.. This is our platform, we would want more than economy stimuli. Where is the beef and how much. Dont forget a recovery fund just for thinking about digging in our waters..
    The opposition would need information in order to form an opinion.. So where is the information?
    Lets get a rebuttal posted.

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  2. Its seems that efforts to stimulate the economy by upwardly mobile development is not really a popular idea. Most residents are against changing the landscape of the island in any way. One way to eliminate the need for new development and possibly foreign investment would be to implement direct taxation such as Income and Property Taxes. This may very well generate the revenue thats needed by the government to operate at the standards of most Caymanians without the need to build up the islands and consider developments like the East End Seaport, Oil Refinery and North Sound Dredging. Would this be an acceptable alternative to all the ideas the current government has for making money and would Caymanians be willing to dig into their own pockets keep the island afloat ?

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