Baird promises robust EIA update

Claims new design will mean less impact

Coastal engineers Baird aim to submit a preliminary review of the new port project design to environment officials by the end of this month.

That review – a comprehensive analysis of the changes from the original design and how they may alter the environmental impacts – is the first step in crafting an updated Environmental Impact Assessment on the project.

Dave Anglin, of Baird, the consultants that carried out the original assessment for government, confirmed that the firm had been hired by Verdant Isle to carry out the update.

But he insisted the company would not simply be telling the consortium what they want to hear.

“We certainly understand the history of the project, the controversy surrounding it, the challenges, the constraints and the trade-offs,” said Anglin, a senior coastal engineer.

“Baird has been in this business for 38 years. We have been successful because we do good work and we stand by our work and our opinion will not be compromised by the fact that we are part of this team (Verdant Isle).

“Our reputation is on the line with every project we do and we do what we need to do and tell people what they need to hear, not what they want to hear.”

Gina Ebanks-Petrie, director of the Department of Environment, said there was no issue with Baird conducting the assessment on behalf of the applicant.

She said the firm would be required to submit details and credentials of their team for vetting by the Environmental Assessment Board, which she chairs.

Currently she said the board was waiting for a “scoping report” from Baird as well as key details, including an electronic copy of the proposed layout.

Anglin said he understood that the Department of Environment was “starving for information” and Baird would get them the documents they need as quickly as possible.

He said the firm was actively working on the scoping document, which he described as a systematic comparison of the new and old designs and a preliminary assessment on how the changes alter the environmental impacts.

For the most part, he said, the changes should lessen the impacts by reducing the amount of dredging and using mechanical, rather than hydraulic, dredging methods. He said that had been the objective of the redesigns since 2015.

“In general, the scoping document will highlight that in critical areas the adverse impacts to the environment will be less,” he said.

He said the new design moved the piers further from Eden Rock, one of the most important dive sites in the area, but acknowledged it was still close to Soto’s Reef, another extremely popular diving and snorkelling site.

The Balboa wreck is still within the footprint of the design and the Cali wreck is very close to the area for the new tender pier.

The precise details of the designs will be included in Baird’s report to the Environmental Assessment Board. How quickly they will be made available to the public is unclear. Verdant Isle has indicated they will post documentation on their website but only featured a landing page with no information as of Monday afternoon.

Ebanks-Petrie said the updated EIA process would include public consultation and public meetings to get input on the terms of the study and another round of public involvement once the consultants have carried out their work and prepared a report.

She said the EAB would also review the documentation and issue its own report.

Government is obliged under the law to consider the findings of the report, but the report does not determine whether the project proceeds or not.

Next steps towards EIA update:

  • Baird to submit scoping report to Environmental Assessment Board
  • The board can then draft the terms of reference for the update
  • Those will go out to public consultation for 21 days
  • Within that timeframe Verdant Isle and Baird must host a public meeting
  • Work on the updated EIA begins

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