Tuesday, October 11, 2011

PLP Senator Jerome Fitzgerald: ..."irrefutable facts" and "visual evidence of the undeniable and large scale destruction being wreaked on the environment at and around Bell Island." ...in the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park


Tribune Staff Reporter

ENVIRONMENT Minister Earl Deveaux fired back at PLP Senator Jerome Fitzgerald's criticisms of the Bell Island development claiming his "words cannot be trusted".

Mr Deveaux said the Bell Island dredging is constantly monitored and the implementation of the Environmental Management Plan continues to ensure the highest environmental standards.

Last week, Senator Fitzgerald held a press conference urgently calling on the government to monitor dredging around Bell Island to limit the destruction he claims it is causing in the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park.

According to Mr Fitzgerald some 13 acres, or 600,000 sq ft of the sea bed has been excavated from Conch Cut south of Bell Island, to make way for the inland marina, destroying the habitats of numerous marine animals, including lobster and conch.

However, in his statement Mr Deveaux said Mr Fitzgerald's estimates are "far wrong" and that less than five acres of natural area is being affected by excavations.

He added that areas for the yacht basin and barge landing are a third of what Mr Fitzgerald claims is being destroyed.

Similar to the senator's criticisms of Saunders Beach last year, which were proven wrong, he is again using "emotive and incendiary words to inflame the public," Mr Deveaux said.

Last year Mr Fitzgerald blamed the "destructive" erosion of Saunders Beach on the excavations being done for the Arawak Cay extension. Mr Deveaux argued that the erosion had been caused by the usual weather pattern at that time of year and had nothing to do with the excavations.

When the winter weather changed, and the pounding waves, driven by high winds ceased, the sand would return, the Minister had said.

Mr Fitzgerald replied that if the beach did not return by June 30 of that year the public would expect Mr Deveaux to resign. The beach returned as predicted.

As for Bell Island, said Mr Deveaux, activity is constantly monitored by an on site Environmental Manager. The manager produces daily reports and is fully empowered to stop works that are not in compliance with the project's Environmental Management Plan (EMP).

Further, Mr Deveaux said, the Exuma Parks Warden is a frequent visitor to the island along with senior government officials led by the BEST Commission who "maintain ongoing interactive input on the works."

In addition to a native plant nursery in charge of regenerating and replanting indigenous plant species, Mr Deveaux said employees as well as divers from Black Point find, identify and relocate conch impacted by dredging.

In response to Mr Deveaux's statement Mr Fitzgerald issued a press release defending his comments on what he described as "irrefutable facts" and "visual evidence of the undeniable and large scale destruction being wreaked on the environment at and around Bell Island."

The Dredging Permit given by the Department of Physical Planning on September 23, 2010 allows for the developer of Bell Island to dredge 13.1 acres said Mr Fitzgerald.

He said: "The uncertainty in each and every statement proved either he (Mr Deveaux) doesn't really know what is going on at Bell Island or he doesn't care."

Reiterating his previous statement Mr Fitzgerald claims the development is not being monitored properly, nor is it complying with EIA and the EMP.

In his statement, Mr Fitzgerald challenged the government to make public evidence of the size of current excavations, permits and other documents pertaining to the project.

"I again implore the government, the Minister and the relevant environmental agencies to get a handle on the environmental destruction which is taking place at Bell Island due to lack of safeguards mandated by the BEST Commission and provided for in the EMP," said Mr Fitzgerald.

October 10, 2011