The Environmental Assessment Board has concluded that a new environmental impact assessment will be required for government’s $200 million cruise berthing and cargo enhancement project.
The board gave the recommendation at the end of its review of the updated scoping opinion on the project submitted by Verdant Isle Port Partners in January.
“The EAB has reviewed VIPP’s submission and concluded that an EIA Update is required to reassess the likely effects of the new design as the effects predicted in the original cruise berthing facility EIA may no longer apply to the new project design,” Environmental Assessment Board chair Gina Petrie-Ebanks said in the 18-page EIA assessment scoping opinion dated 25 Feb.
She concluded that the new EIA should contain updates to areas including geology and soils, air quality, marine ecology, vehicular and pedestrian traffic, cargo and cruise operations, and socio-economic impact assessments.
She said the additional studies proposed by Verdant Isle, such as navigation simulations, a dive survey and coral mapping, are generally acceptable and form the basis for the updates to the environment statement chapters.
“The proponent should now submit details of the consultancy team which will carry out the EIA so that the EAB can confirm that they possess the range of technical competencies required to undertake the EIA based on the above Scoping Opinion,” she said.
Verdant Isle is government’s preferred bidder for the design-build-finance-maintain contract for the project.
The consortium submitted the EIA scoping update for the proposed cruise berthing and cargo enhancement project on the eve of the judicial review case filed by Cruise Port Referendum Cayman’s Shirley Roulstone and the National Trust.
Judge Tim Owen ruled in Roulstone’s favour, declaring last week that the Port Referendum Law, which was passed in the Legislative Assembly to pave the way for a vote on the future of the project, was unlawful, and ordering the law to be quashed.
Government has indicated it will appeal the ruling.
Petrie-Ebanks, in a comment to the Cayman Compass Thursday, said the court ruling has not impacted the Environmental Assessment Board’s work on the scoping opinion for the cruise berthing EIA update.
She said the next step in the EIA process involves Verdant Isle supplying information to the board on the specific expertise and qualifications of the consulting team which they will deploy to address the information needs identified in the scoping opinion.
“Once the EAB is satisfied that the consulting team has the required technical competencies to carry out the EIA update, we will begin working with them to develop draft Terms of Reference for the update. The draft ToR will be subject to a 21 day public consultation period which includes a requirement for a public meeting to be held,” she said.
Ebanks-Petrie, in her report, said an EIA for the project was last prepared in 2015 for what was then referred to as the cruise berthing facility
“However, there has been an evolution of the design of the scheme assessed. There are fundamental changes to the [cruise berthing and cargo enhancement project] design which would result in the requirement to reassess the likely effects of the new design as the effects predicted in the original CBF EIA may no longer apply …” she stated in her assessment.
EAB chair findings
The fundamental changes which may have new likely significant effects on the environment include:
- An increase in the expected passenger numbers from a maximum of 2.3 million passengers in 2015 to 2.5 million passengers in 2022 with anticipated growth of 1% to 1.5% beyond 2022.
- A change in the area of the dredge pocket, moving it further from Eden Rock but closer to Cheeseburger/Soto’s Reef.
- An extension in the time required for dredging as well as confirmation of the dredging methodology.
- Approximately half the number of predicted operational jobs.
- Reduced number of predicted construction jobs.
- Restricted access to the Wreck of the Cali, which is proposed to be accessible only by permission of the Port Authority of the Cayman Island.
- Changes to the mitigation measures proposed resulting in residual effects which are greater than in the 2015 EIA.