Environment board to decide on EIA update

The updates will focus on the impact of the new design.

Environment officials are reviewing a report outlining how design changes to the proposed cruise berthing project will alter the environmental impacts.

Gina Ebanks-Petrie, who heads up government’s Environmental Assessment Board, said her team would be analysing the report from Verdant Isle Port Partners, which is the preferred bidder on the project, over the next few weeks.

The board has four weeks to issue a ‘scoping opinion’ based on the document as to what new work, if any, is required to update the environmental impact assessment on the controversial pier proposal. After that, there will be a period of public consultation, including a public meeting, before an updated report is commissioned.

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A comprehensive EIA was carried out on the original design in 2015. That report concluded that there would be significant losses of coral reef habitat in George Town Harbour and that adjacent reefs, including Eden Rock and Soto’s Reef, would suffer serious adverse impacts.

It also concluded that the project would have no significant impact on Seven Mile Beach.

Since then, the design has been changed to move the piers to deeper water and limit the amount of dredging required.

Dave Anglin, senior coastal engineer with environmental consultants Baird, which carried out the original study and has joined the Verdant Isle group to work on the update, told the Cayman Compass in an interview in November that he expected the design changes would reduce the environmental impacts of the project.

He described the scoping document, submitted this week, as a systematic comparison of the new and old designs and a preliminary assessment on how the changes alter the environmental impacts.

Ebanks-Petrie confirmed the board had received the report and would give its verdict within four weeks.

“Our job is to review this report and to develop a scoping opinion that outlines what needs to be covered by an update to the EIA,” she said.

Any additional work, beyond what was done in 2015, she said, would be connected to the change in design, along with any other key parameters that had been altered in the past five years.

“This is standard for environmental impact assessments,” she added. “They are iterative. If you change the design, then that affects the potential for impacts.”

The update will also consider the likely effect of proposed mitigation measures, including the style of dredging and a proposed coral-relocation programme.

Once the Environmental Assessment Board releases its scoping opinion, the next step will be to confirm and approve the credentials of the team appointed by Verdant Isle to do the update.

After that, the consultants will work with the EAB to produce draft terms of reference – outlining the objectives of the EIA update and what it will cover.

Those will go out for public consultation during a 21-day period. People will have the opportunity to give feedback, including through a public meeting, before the final terms of reference for the study are completed.

The consultants will then complete the work and the study, and there will be another round of public feedback and meetings before the EAB issues a final updated report on the impacts of the port project.


Next steps

* The board has four weeks to issue a ‘scoping opinion’ outlining what updates are needed to the environmental impact assessment.

* Verdant Isle’s consultants will work with the board to produce draft terms of reference for the updated EIA.

* There will be a 21-day consultation period, including a public meeting, for people to give feedback before the terms of reference are finalised.

* Verdant Isle’s consultants will carry out the work and produce an updated report.
* That report will then go out to public consultation.

* The consultants will produce a final environmental statement on the likely environmental impacts of the project with the new design.

* The board may also produce a review and final statement on the project

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