by Larry Smith
Last week I received an unexpected call from Philip Weech, head of the Bahamas Environment Science & Technology Commission. He notified me (and presumably others) that the long-sought environmental impact assessment for the planned Bimini Bay cruise ferry terminal had finally been published on the commission’s website.
That announcement came long after the developers had begun mobilising for the project, and well after actual construction had begun - as my recent trip to Bimini confirmed. According to Weech, the Official Secrets Act had prevented him from releasing the document earlier, but he was not aiuthorised to make any comment.
The lack of transparancy and utter disregard for due process is truly astounding - even for the Bahamas. And the government must be held to account in this matter, or our democracy will be further eroded. All decisions were apparently made long ago in secret, without input from environmental agencies like the Bahamas National Trust, or the public.
This is notwithstanding the fact that the whole EIA process is intended to be consultative in the first place. And notwithstanding the fact that the Planning & Subdivision Act mandates a land use plan for every island governing "the management of water and other natural resources, Crown lands, natural and cultural heritage, environmental protection, agriculture, industry, tourism, commerce, urban development and transportation."
The Bimini cruise ferry terminal EIA was produced by a Nassau-based firm called Blue Engineering (headed by Michelle Lakin), with input from two Miami firms, Coastal Systems International and Ocean Consulting Inc.
The project will dredge 220,000 cubic yards of material from the seabed off North Bimini's western shore to create an entrance channel and a 4.5 acre artificial island connected to the resort by a 1,000-foot pier. This dredge and fill operation will impact some 25 acres of seabed, according to the EIA.