The Environmental Impact Report on the East End Seaport was delivered to the Department of Environment on Wednesday, 11 May, and was released on the project’s website this week.
Joe Imparato, of the developer City Services (Cayman) Ltd. said making the report available to the public was something he consistently said he would do when it was completed.
“The rational, objective concerns generally fell in to two main areas – the risk of coastal flooding and the impact on the water lens,” he said in a press release issued Wednesday. “It made the most sense to go to the District of East End when I had factual answers and information to address those concerns.”
In the end, the report indicates that both of the main concerns can be mitigated.
“My commitment has consistently been that if the [Environmental Impact Assessment] revealed immitigable impacts on the environment that the project would not go forward,” said Mr. Imparato, who added that Cayman has been his home for 30 years and is also his children’s and grandchildren’s home.
“However, the results of the [Environmental Impact Assessment] show that the two biggest concerns – the risk of flooding and the impact on the water lens – can both be effectively addressed and managed through the design, engineering, construction and operations of the port.”
The report was prepared by South Florida-based Hesperides Group, LLC. Its founder and president, Melissa Meeker, was named the executive director of the South Florida Water Management District last week. Hesperides’ environmental assessment was conducted in accordance with technical terms of reference agreed to with Cayman’s Department of Environment and included the involvement of many other government authorities and departments.
The purpose of the Environmental Impact Report was to assess the potential impacts to socioeconomic and biophysical resources during construction and operation of the proposed Seaport project, which will be in the High Rock area of East End. The potential impacts evaluated considered the duration of the impact; the relative magnitude of each impact; whether the impact was adverse or beneficial; and potential mitigation that could reduce, eliminate or reverse any adverse impacts.
One of the major contentions against the project is that allowing seawater into the seaport’s man-made basin would ruin the large fresh water lens in East End.
The construction of the Seaport basin will bring seawater approximately 2,500 feet closer to the freshwater lens
To assess the potential impact of the basin on the water lens, Hesperides performed groundwater modelling using hydrologic and geologic data collected at the site, as well as other existing information.
“The model is conservative and was designed to overestimate the magnitude of potential groundwater impacts,” the Report’s executive summary states. “Predictions based on the model show that excavating the [East End Seaport] basin may cause the southwest boundary of the lens to migrate further inland and the thickness of the lens to decrease within a small area of the lens.”
The maximum extent of the impact would take 50 years to occur and could involve having the boundary of the water lens retreat up to 600 feet further inland, the report stated.
“Overall, the predicted effects represent small changes in the size and volume of the East End lens. There are a number of potential mitigation measures that may be used, along with continued monitoring and management of groundwater withdrawals from the lens, to ensure that this important resource is available for existing uses.
Possible mitigation efforts include the creation of a slurry wall, grout curtain or barrier wells in between the seaport basin and the freshwater lens. With mitigation, all of the potential impacts – except for the relatively small reduction in the size of the lens – could be avoided, the report states.
Another major concern of the East End Seaport has been that the creation of the basin would eliminate a portion of the high ridge that separates the sea from the East End interior, which could allow easier access of storm surge waters inland during a tropical cyclone event.
To mitigate against that, a perimeter berm around the basin will be built to a height of 12 feet above mean sea level. That perimeter berm will be topped by a roadway that will provide access to the seaport and serve as the new route for east-west traffic along Sea View Road. This berm and roadway would be constructed before the natural ridge is breached.
The report also notes that a canal could be constructed around the seaport basin and used as a storm water storage and to create a hydraulic barrier between the basin and the freshwater lens.
Terrestrial and Marine Resources
The report stated that no special status animal species, specifically endangered Blue Iguanas, were seen during field surveys.
“However, the surveys did indicate plant formations that provide variable habitat for some of the Island’s special status plant and avian species,” the report stated. “To help mitigate the loss of habitat resources, select plant material (orchids, seeds, thatch palms) will be collected and a nursery will be established to maintain and propagate native vegetation. This material will be replanted on the [East End Seaport] site in buffer areas, in spaces designated on the master plan as open or recreational spaces and as part of the formal landscaping as way to restore some habitat value; additionally other suitable locations on Grand Cayman will be identified working with local organisations and private landowners.” With regard to marine resources, the report stated that construction of the seaport entrance channel would remove approximately six acres of coral reef habitat, with an average of 20 per cent live coral coverage.
“The location of the entrance channel was selected to minimize the size of the impacted area by incorporating a large area of sandy sea floor,” the reported stated. “Additionally, the developer has volunteered to relocate a number of coral heads from the proposed channel to suitable reef substrate just outside the channel footprint. In addition, the proposed inlet jetty will provide new benthic habitat for fish and corals. Other impacts to marine resources are expected to be minor.”
The project proposes to create a 516-acre commercial seaport that will have five different uses, including a cargo port with transshipment facilities; a cruiseship home port; a mega yacht marina, bulk hydrocarbon storage; and a resort hotel with restaurants, shopping facilities and tourist activities.
The project would involve cutting a channel from the sea into the eastern interior and creating a 55-foot basin that would allow the egress of large ships.
The potential impacts evaluated considered the duration of the impact; the relative magnitude of each impact; whether the impact was adverse or beneficial; and potential mitigation that could reduce, eliminate or reverse any adverse impacts.
The full environmental impact report can be accessed at www.eastendseaport.com.