Seaport impact study released

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    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.  

     

    Water lens 

    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. 

     

    Coastal flooding 

    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.” 

     

    Project scope 

    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. 

     

     

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    A rendering of what the East End Seaport will look like at night.
    Image: Submitted
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    4 COMMENTS

    1. I have neither been a supporter of or a person against this project, I have always said that I would make my decision on whether or not to support this project once the EIA was released. First of all I would like to thank the Cayman Compass for putting out such an unbiased report on what the EIA contains when other news services obviously offered information in a format that is clearly written to bias folks against the idea in lieu of letting them make up their own minds after reading the facts.

      My thoughts are that the EIA sounds on the surface like it may have covered all the possible issues surrounding the project and as for as it stating that all possible negative impact can be mitigated, I am still not completely convinced especially since the report was commissioned by the person who will be benefiting most for the development. Although he claims to have a high regard and concern for Caymans environment and echo system that remains to be seen.

      I will need to take my time and read the complete report before I can even attempt to make an educated choice. Overall I think the idea would be good for the East End economically but I have to admit I am very concerned about the reality of all the risks being safely and completely mitigated. So at this point I still cannot say that I support it but I am still willing to entertain the idea.

      As far as the issues brought up so far, these are my feelings.

      Possibility of Coastal Flooding, I believe that what the report proposed will actually offer more protection against this then what currently there.

      Impact on the east End Water Lens, this is still a major concern and I am not comfortable with doing anything that will put this resource at risk, for me to accept this there would have to be concrete evidence that this could be mitigated to show no risk or effect to the fresh water lens ever.

      Terrestrial and Marine Resources, I believe that plants can be saved moved and used in the landscaping of the project such as what was done with Caymana Bay. As well as redistributed around the island, I am sure that there will be plenty of land owners willing to care for some of these native species. I also think he should be asked to create a protected area such as the botanical Gardens where these plants can flourish, this will also become a nice tourist attraction where folks can observe native flora and fauna in its natural environment. For the Coral reef habitat that will be effected the 20 Percent of living Coral will have to be safely relocated. And I do agree that the basin itself will provide a new habitat for fish and corals.

      I am a believer that progress is a good thing as long as the cost in the long run is not too high. What it would take for me to support this project is concrete proof that the people and the environment will benefit in the long run. This I haven’t seen as of yet. I’d like to see specific plans on what they will be doing to mitigate each risk as well as proof it will actually work. So my current position is, I remain neutral although neutrality would mean I am not convinced to support it as of yet, but I do still have an open mind about the project.

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    2. It was a nice attempt by Joseph, but the Environmental Impact Assessment says NO, and thank God for that, because the reasons are rational,loud, and clear.

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    3. Wow, taking a risk on losing your fresh water lens. That’s a big one. Will the port guarantee a fresh water supply to the island should the mitigation plan fails? Insure the fresh water supply in some way?
      Did the team consider earthquake damage to any barriers in place? Since Cayman is tectonically active,any fracturing caused by an earthquake could create a leak between port and lens potentially.

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    4. Hmmmm, jobs, better protection from storm surge, moving those blasted petroleum tanks from downtown, no more fueling ships downtown with the potential of leaking…..this keeps getting better! I do know that it’s hard for for the yatching set to come to Cayman without 5 star marina facilities. We do look forward to these wonderful additions to Cayman.

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