A group of boat operators is opposing a proposal to create a hurricane shelter at Barkers.
The boat owners say placing their boats in such a shelter, known as a hurricane hole, cut into Barkers and with a 50-foot wide channel to the site dredged so boats can access it, would put their vessels in danger during a storm.
At a meeting in West Bay to discuss wide-ranging development proposals by the Dart Group on Monday, 8 August, including plans for Barkers, West Bay MLA Captain Eugene Ebanks said he had received unanimous support from 25 boat owners he had consulted about the hurricane hole. Some of the boat owners who had been contacted by Mr. Ebanks denied they supported a storm shelter in Barkers and wanted a hurricane hole at Salt Creek instead.
However, on Thursday, Captain Eugene said he had not been referring to the location of the hurricane hole when he said he had received 100 per cent support from the 25 boat owners, but instead that they had agreed “to the idea of a hurricane hole”.
“Some did not care that it was Barkers or Salt Creek. Some preferred to see it at Salt Creek and some did not care,” he said. “I didn’t say that everyone agreed to put it at Barkers.”
“Nothing’s been set in stone. We’re just beginning to discuss this with Dart,” he said, adding that the development company had told him that Salt Creek and Barkers would both be considered as sites for the hurricane shelter.
But a group of boat owners who gathered at Safe Haven on Wednesday said they did not know of any boat owner who would support putting a hurricane hole in Barkers.
“To put a hurricane hole in the Barkers area is unheard of,” said Captain Frank Ebanks, a veteran boat operator. “No one with any sense would even mention it. The head of Barkers is below sea level. After a nor’wester, we used to find bamboo, coconuts, old shoes, all those things washed over the beach onto what used to be Kings Road, the swamp road. That’s where they’re thinking now of putting this hurricane shelter.”
He said he believed if boats were put in Barkers, they would end up wrecked on the land like boats that were moored at Governor’s Harbour during Hurricane Ivan.
Shaun Ebanks, deputy chairman of the Land and Sea Co-op, who was one of the boat operators attending the meeting with Captain Eugene, said he agreed boat operators needed a shelter for their boats during hurricanes. He said the options of a shelter at Barkers and at Salt Creek were discussed at that meeting.
“What we said to Captain Eugene at that meeting is we support the fact that we do need some kind of safe harbour, but we wanted to find out what in return did Dart want for digging this thing out in Barkers … We also asked him to look at the Salt Creek area, which most members there thought was the better area,” he said.
“There is no way that Barkers would be as safe as Salt Creek,” he said.
Salt Creek had traditionally been the location where boat operators sheltered their boats during storms, but Frank Ebanks said boaters have been unable to shelter their boats in that area since Dart bought the land and it was developed.
Captain Eugene said owners of multimillion dollar homes in Salt Creek, which is a private waterway, had concerns that boats situated there during storms may end up damaging their homes in the event of a hurricane.
Bryan Ebanks, who called the meeting of the boat owners at Safe Haven on Wednesday, said they were suspicious that there were “ulterior motives” to the proposal to put a hurricane hole at Barkers and that it could lead to more dredging in the North Sound.
“We’re concerned that there is a hidden agenda, that there’s a long-term plan for Dart to dredge through to the Augustus Channel. This dredging for the hurricane shelter would then become a catalyst for continued dredging,” he said.
Captain Eugene Ebanks refuted this, insisting the only dredging would be for one cut, 50 feet wide by 8 feet deep, through the sound to give boats access to the hurricane shelter. “There is no other dredging being considered at all,” he added.