• Fri. Jul 1st, 2022

The DoE opposes the development of the resort town of Little Cayman

ByJean A. Francis

Nov 13, 2021

The Department of the Environment urged Cabinet not to allow the development of an overwater bungalow in the shallow waters of South Hole Sound in Little Cayman.

In a coastal work review document dated August 20, the DoE wrote that it “strongly recommends [the] request be refused on the principle of prohibiting the construction and establishment of habitable structures in a Marine Protected Area ”.

The development in question is a 61-room resort that is split between units on land and on the water.

Plans for the complex reveal that the ground elements would consist of six cluster buildings, each comprising two one-story, two-bedroom, and one two-story, three-bedroom unit – for a total of 42 rooms in 18 units.

The overwater elements would include 19 single bedroom units, which ran along a 450-foot dock in South Hole Sound.

Similar designs for villas and overwater bungalows are often seen at resorts such as this one in Bora Bora, French Polynesia. – Photo: File

“A project like this would normally trigger the requirement for a screening to determine the need for [Environmental Impact Assessment]», Wrote the DoE in its review of coastal work.

The document also stated that “the DoE strongly believes that it would neither be beneficial nor logical for the applicant to perform an EIA for a project which is fundamentally unacceptable due to its location and would be unacceptable regardless of the results of the EIA. Therefore, the Ministry urges Cabinet to deny authorization for this request for coastal works ”.

The proposed development has met with public opposition.

In August, the Central Caribbean Marine Institute, based in Little Cayman, voiced objections, saying it believed the development “has the potential to impact the entire local marine ecosystem.”

The National Trust of the Cayman Islands also filed a petition against the project, which garnered between 400 and 500 signatures.

Potential damage to the environment

The DoE also warned that the construction and subsequent operation of the resort could pose a threat to the marine environment.

In order to build the overwater bungalows, the development would require 549 round coated steel piles between 12 ″ and 14 ″ which would be filled with galvanized steel, which would be mechanically drilled into the basement from 16 to 18 feet, passing the sand and in the bedrock.

The DoE warned that installing the piers could result in the suspension of sediment, which could suffocate marine organisms while burying or embedding others.

“This large number of piles will result in direct impacts of the piles on the seabed and indirect impacts due to the turbidity generated and noise and vibration due to the piles and the operation of the equipment,” wrote the DoE.

Legal protection

In the coastal work review document, the DoE noted that the South Hole Strait is designated as a marine reserve, which represents the second highest level of marine protection offered by the National Conservation Act. The highest level of protection is an environmental zone, such as the central mangrove wetland.

The DoE declares that a marine reserve is a “public natural resource” that is necessary to maintain populations of fish, conch and lobster at good levels.

“A marine protected area is a public natural resource for all Caymanians and fundamentally should not be degraded by habitable structures above water,” the DoE wrote.

Lack of mitigation measures

The DoE reported what it believes to be a lack of meaningful mitigation measures presented by developers in a technical report on the construction and maintenance of the proposed complex.

“Unfortunately, it appears to have been directly copied from a document titled ‘Technical Report for Construction and Maintenance of Overwater Structure at Whitehouse, Westmoreland dated April 2017’,” wrote the DoE, who also highlighted many errors in the document. For example, he referred to Jamaican regulatory bodies, instead of Cayman’s departments, the DoE noted.

The DoE added, “It is difficult to accept these mitigation measures as developer commitments. Considering the lack of proofreading and the fact that so many tables are mere screenshots of another project’s technical document; it is doubtful that these proposed measures are actually implemented in the proposed development.

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