Editorial for May 19: Seaport deserves studied debate

The environmental impact report on the East End Seaport has now been completed and submitted to the Department of Environment. It has also been posted on the project’s website.

The environmental report says the project will indeed have an impact on Cayman’s environment.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone because every construction project – whether it be a school, shopping plaza, church, civic centre or playing field – impacts the environment, and usually somewhat negatively. Human progress comes with an environmental price, and the East End Seaport, if it goes ahead, is no different.

One difference with the East End Seaport is we now have a comprehensive scientific report that tells us what potential impacts this project will have on the environment. Too often the potential environmental impacts are either trivialised by project advocates or overblown by project opponents. As a result, the public is often left with a lot of misinformation to sift through when trying to evaluate the pros and cons of a proposed project.

Now that the seaport environmental study is complete, the public has the chance to reach a more informed decision on the merits of the project. Although the Seaport project would most definitely have impacts on the environment and will change aspects of the East End district forever, the project would also bring many benefits. Among other benefits, the East End Seaport is a project that can help diversify Cayman’s economy, something that is badly needed if this country is to avoid direct taxation.

Whether the potential benefits of the Seaport project are acceptable when weighed against the potential impacts is a decision the government must now make, with advice from the Department of Environment and no doubt from the public.

To either outright dismiss the notion of the Seaport or to jump on the project’s bandwagon without first considering the impact/benefit equation does no one any good, and we only hope that the debate that follows comes from a studied response, rather than just an emotional reaction or political platform.