Cayman’s Environmental Protection Fund coffers grew by almost a million dollars in 2020, to $57.9 million.
The EPF is funded by departure fees levied on travellers leaving Cayman via the airport or cruise ship terminal. Since no cruise tourists have travelled in or out of Cayman since March last year, the majority of $2.1 million that was paid into it last year came from people departing through the airport.
Financial Secretary Kenneth Jefferson told the Cayman Compass that, as of the end of December 2019, the fund contained $57 million.
The fund is counted towards the government’s cash reserves, which stood at $449 million at the end of last year.
Money withdrawn for iguana cull, landfill remediation
In 2020, a total of $1.2 million was withdrawn from the fund. The majority of this was spent “on programmes protecting the environment”, Jefferson said.
This included $1,179,882 allocated for green iguana cull expenses, and $70,000 for the remediation of the George Town landfill.
Cullers receive $5 per iguana as part of a programme to eradicate invasive species from the Cayman Islands. Last year, while Cayman’s COVID-19 shelter-in-place restrictions were in place, the culling initiative was halted. Before it stopped, more than 1.1 million iguanas had been culled. The programme resumed in June.
Meanwhile, at the George Town landfill over the past year, the dump site has been covered in aggregate, as part of the remediation efforts to prepare for the implementation of an ‘Integrated Solid Waste Management System’ at the site.
The Dart group, which is the preferred bidder for the new waste management system, announced in early March that work on capping the landfill was about to begin. However, like the iguana culling, the work was put on hold during the COVID lockdown. In October last year, Dart and the Cayman Islands government signed agreements to continue the capping and remediation of the landfill.
No update on a finalised agreement between Dart or the government on the project has been given since last month, when Premier Alden McLaughlin told reporters that a final contract between the two parties is likely to be signed before the 14 April election.
A consortium led by Dart’s construction firm DECCO was announced as the preferred bidder on the ISWMS project in 2017.
Control of funds
The control of the money in the Environmental Protection Fund falls to Cayman’s Parliament.
As a result, no money can be removed from the fund until after the 14 April election, as Parliament has already been dissolved.
Recently, the Department of Environment indicated that additional funds would likely be needed to bolster efforts to fight the Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease, which has been found in several dive sites on Grand Cayman.
DoE Director Gina Ebanks-Petrie told the Compass that her department currently has permission to reallocate and utilise $100,000 in EPF funding that was approved for other DoE projects in the 2020-2021 budget. The green iguana project falls under the remit of the DoE.
“The current budget expires at the end of 2021 and any new funding will likely have to wait until we have a new government and possibly a new budget,” Ebanks-Petrie said.