Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell has said he expects the Environmental Assessment Board to move swiftly in its review of the environmental impact assessment scoping update for the cruise berthing and cargo project.

The document was submitted to the board on Tuesday.

EAB chair Gina Ebanks-Petrie confirmed receipt of the scoping update report and said that, over the next few weeks, her team will be reviewing the document.

The Cayman Compass spoke with Kirkconnell on Wednesday about the new developments with the $200 million project, at the Caribbean Travel Marketplace event in Nassau, Bahamas which he is attending this week.

The minister said government and Verdant Isle Port Partners expect to be in a position to determine the next steps on the updated EIA scoping report in the next three or four weeks.

“We’ve turned that [report] over to the Environmental Assessment Board and we’re waiting for guidelines from them. I expect them to move quickly. I expect that in the short period of time, we will have some comments back. Ms. Petrie is well recognised in that industry, and she’s chairing it,” Kirkconnell said.

The EAB has four weeks to issue a ‘scoping opinion’ based on the document. That opinion will determine what new work, if any, is required to update the 2015 EIA on the controversial pier proposal.

That assessment, which was carried out by consultancy company Baird, concluded there would be significant losses of coral reef habitat in George Town Harbour, and adjacent reefs, including Eden Rock and Soto’s Reef, would suffer serious adverse impacts from the project. It also concluded that the project would have no significant impact on Seven Mile Beach.

The proposed port project has been redesigned to set the piers in deeper waters which limits the amount of dredging required.

The scoping update, Kirkconnell said, was also done by Baird, who reviewed the original 2015 document and “made recommendations based on the new guidelines and outline of the cruise berthing facility that has been changed by the government”.

Royal HaskoningDHV engineering consultancy, he added, was contracted to do a peer review of what Baird had done when it looked at the 2015 document.

“And we’re happy that that is now completed,” the minister said.

Kirkconnell added, from government’s perspective, the EIA may be a 2015 document, but “it’s a 50-year project, so I’m going to assume the 2015 document was extremely well done again by best in class”.

Once the EAB has completed its review and issued its recommendations, there will be a period of public consultation, including a public meeting, before an updated report is commissioned.

The scoping document is yet to be made public.
Cayman Compass reporter Kayla Young contributed to this report.