The Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort has applied for a coastal works licence to re-establish the eroded beach in front of its Seven Mile Beach property.
The matter, which was submitted along with an application for $23 million renovation work at the hotel, was heard by the Central Planning Authority on Wednesday. Coastal works applications ultimately are decided by Cabinet, but the CPA and other government agencies act as advisory bodies on such issues.
The resort pointed out in its application that erosion had removed almost all the sand from the beachfront of the Marriott hotel, and the neighbouring South Bay Beach Club, Tamarind Bay and Plantation Village. The project would entail moving 100,000 square feet of sand from the sea floor, adjacent to the hotel, to the shore to rebuild the beach.
The cost of “renourishing” the beach, using what the company described as green “completely removable technology”, is likely to be about $950,000. That cost would be picked up by the owner of the Marriott – London and Regional Hotels – and the stratas of the neighbouring condos, but the applicant is asking that government waive duties for the project.
Matthew Manning, a consultant with AMR Consulting Engineers, which is heading up the project, said at Wednesday’s meeting that the Marriott is at a point where it is losing revenue because the hotel has no beach and ends up having to relocate tourists.
Manning said the Marriott had lost $4 million because of the erosion of the beach. “People are coming and being disappointed,” he added.
The CPA questioned the consultant on how the relocated-sand project will hold up to norwesters. He responded that the technology that will be used has been proven to have worked in other locations around the world.
Manning said part of the 18-month trial project would include the installation of “wave droids” to measure wave intensity. This will provide AMR with background readings to verify how to properly engage the beach-erosion problem, he said.
Manning said that unless data regarding the erosion of the beach is collected, there will never be a true solution to the problem.
The Department of Environment’s Technical Review Committee stated in the Coastal Works Review issued earlier this month that the project is wholly inconsistent with contemporary coastal-engineering practice for beach stabilisation.
“It will be ultimately deleterious to the Marriott, Seven Mile Beach, and the Cayman Islands. The proposed plan should be rejected by the Marriott and by the Government,” DoE stated.
DoE ended its report by saying that other solutions require a local strategic retreat, explaining, “Any opportunity to remove at least parts of an existing seawall to create additional upland for the beach is a means to create reliable beach recreation area and guests’ wading entry to the sea,” the DoE said.
“It exchanges some upland terrace areas for valuable beach area that does not otherwise rely upon seasonal fluctuations, beach nourishment, or structures. This option is becoming more increaingly adopted in the face of rising sea levels and diminishing natural beach sand supply.”
The hotel-renovation application encompasses all bedrooms and the beachside areas of the hotel. The application stated that the process would begin with the build-out of four sample/model rooms which would provide the blueprint for the full renovation of all 295 rooms, at a cost of $23 million.