A developer wants to build a golf course in the District of Bodden Town.
The proposal – which also includes 111 house lots, two lots for apartments, two lakes and a canal leading to North Sound in Grand Cayman – has drawn severe criticism from the Cayman Islands Department of Environment and Water Authority-Cayman, who are insisting that an environmental impact assessment be performed due to the presence of ecologically sensitive areas.
The Central Planning Authority heard the proposal during its 12 September meeting, but held back on making a decision because of a regulation that requires Cabinet approval “for any work related to the sea bed required to connect the proposed canal to the North Sound” before the authority can consider the proposed access through the mangrove buffer zone.
The site of the proposed development by Caymarl Ltd. is a 416-acre area about 1,500 feet east of North Sound Estates and 1,300 feet northwest of Northward. About 120 acres would be available for the golf course, local architect Burns Conolly said while representing the developer before the board. The development would include a 20-foot-deep marina with a channel connecting it to the area of North Sound known as “Duck Pond”, according to the Department of Environment’s commentary.
“The proposal, if approved, will represent the first transgression of the Mangrove Buffer Zone in this part of the Island and its severance is vitally important both in terms of precedent and adverse environmental impact. A breach in the mangroves in this location will establish the principle of development gaining access through the fringing mangroves, which will be of detriment to the Replenishment Zone,” according to the Department of Environment.
“The primary purpose of the Replenishment Zone is to ensure that culturally and commercially important species, namely conch, turtle and the spiny lobster, have protected breeding and nursery habitat such as seagrass and healthy coral beds. Physical damage and siltation caused by excavation in this location will impact seagrass, mangroves and, ultimately, coral in the vicinity. Works of this type are incompatible with the management objectives of the Marine Park System,” according to the department.
According to the department, “Duck Pond was historically used as a careenage (pre-industrial method of cleaning a ship’s hull by leaning her over with anchors attached to the standing rigging) due to its extensive shallow waters and a wealth of historically important marine artefacts relating to this activity can still be found today. The site is still waiting for a through archaeological investigation to determine its full potential in contributing to Cayman’s culturally and historically important seafaring history. It will therefore be critically important to consult with the National Museum to determine whether a detailed archaeological survey should be conducted prior to the granting of any permission to dredge or excavate in this area.”
Mr. Conolly said, “His client is concerned about the impact on Duck Pond. The canal is adjacent to the edge then leads to the Rackley canal. They could have brought it into Duck Pond at the top and then cut diagonally across, which would be worse. They haven’t submitted the Coastal Works License yet because the ministry is looking at combining several applications in the area,” according to the minutes of the meeting.
He said, “They don’t agree with DOE’s comments on marine archaeology,” according to the minutes.
Lower Valley freshwater lens
The Department of Environment and Water Authority each warned about potential impacts to the Lower Valley freshwater lens, citing the example of canals dredged by the Mosquito Control and Research Unit in the same area in the 1980s, which, according to the Water Authority, “resulted in drainage and deterioration of the Lower Valley fresh water lens. As a result of this research the Water Authority requested that the MRCU canals were blocked to avoid further deterioration of the Lower Valley fresh water lens. The canals were blocked and have never been reconnected to the sea.
“This proposed development will result in the deterioration of the Lower Valley fresh water lens in a similar manner as occurred in the 1980s. Therefore the Water Authority is not in a position to support this proposed development.”
The department and Water Authority both said an environmental impact assessment should be performed before excavation takes place.
Although the department claims the development is within 1,200 feet of the Lower Valley water lens, Mr. Conolly said the lens is actually 2,000 feet from the boundary of the site, and is just under a mile away from the excavation. He said, “The idea that the excavation is near the aquifer is a myth,” according to the minutes.
The proposed development also calls for lakes of 20 feet and 50 feet in depth, in order to produce enough fill to build contours on the golf course and to use for the proposed extension to the East-West Arterial. Mr. Conolly said the developer had agreed to help build the portion of the bypass that would pass through his land. The site currently does not have road access, but they can use dike roads to get to the land until the arterial extension is built, Mr. Conolly said, according to the minutes.
The department and Water Authority questioned the depth of the proposed canal and lakes, with the department arguing for the canal to be a maximum of 9 feet deep and the lakes to be a maximum of 14 feet deep. The Water Authority said it generally only approves of lakes being 20 feet deep at most.
Mr. Conolly said sunlight will reach the bottom of the 20-foot-deep canals so it won’t be a problem. He said the deeper lakes should be approved because the fill will be used for the road extension. The board asked Mr. Conolly to consider making each lake 30- or 35-feet deep, rather than having a 50-foot-deep lake.
The board asked Mr. Conolly how the developer will maintain the quality of the lakes’ water when they’re not connected to the North Sound. Mr. Conolly answered, according to the minutes, “There are a lot of springs in Cayman that DOE doesn’t take into account. They create stir at the bottom of the lakes.”
Caymarl’s development is wholly distinct from the golf course and town centre proposed this summer by Eagle Assets Management off Frank Sound Road near the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park.