By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
ENVIRONMENT and Housing Minister Kenred Dorsett declined yesterday to answer questions about controversial dredging and construction in Bimini.
He said that “misinformation” about the project needs to be addressed; however he did not indicate when that would be.
Meanwhile, Dr Kristine Stump, a marine biologist who has completed a 14-year study about the impact of development on marine life, said the Bimini project will likely have “significant, irreversible negative affects on the very aspects of Bimini that make it attractive to visitors.”
Her statement follows comments by Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe, who told The Tribune on Wednesday that he is not aware of any environmental degradation that will result from dredging the seabed around North Bimini.
Dr Stump said: “Not only will dredging directly destroy critical habitats, but the silt created from the process will flow out from the dredged site with the currents, smothering Bimini’s nearby fragile coral reef communities. Long after the destructive dredging is over effects will continue to be felt every single time the cruise ship comes in and stirs up significant amounts of sediment that will continually smother the reefs.
“Reefs are essential habitats, not only for Bimini’s strong dive tourism industry, but also for many commercially important species such as conch, lobster and grouper.”
“Throughout the history of this development’s construction there has been virtually no mitigation against widespread, far-reaching ecological destruction during the construction process. Even simple measures like silt curtains, which prevent reef-killing sedimentation from flowing freely out with the tide, have not been used during previous dredging activities.
“A long-term study found that the development has already had significant negative affects on the health of Bimini’s lagoon. Unfortunately, Bimini’s reefs are next and even the project’s own EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) concludes that this construction will likely have significant, irreversible negative effects on the very aspects of Bimini that make it attractive to visitors. “
Government officials have not revealed when dredging will begin, though a 450-foot dredger from Europe has moved into the area.
The dredging will come as part of Resorts World Bimini’s construction of a ferry terminal to accommodate the docking of its Bimini SuperFast ferry, a project that is already the subject of an ongoing court matter.
Government officials say the project will bring economic benefits to Bimini but environmentalists and some Bimini residents say the project has not been sanctioned in accordance with the law.
Though Mr Dorsett dismissed such concerns yesterday he declined to answer questions, saying he did not want his comments on Bimini to interfere with his message that the government has not granted approvals for dredging to take place at Buress Cay, Grand Bahama.
His statement came despite the fact that the concerns about Bimini dredging constitutes a relatively longstanding issue, not a recent one.
Mr Dorsett said: “I think that we will address the issue of Bimini at another time, because I think it requires a detailed conversation with the people of the Bahamas. Once again I think a lot of misinformation has been put in the public domain. I always invite people to go to the BEST commission website but all of our documents in relation to this matter, if not posted, should be posted on the BEST commission website.
“We’re a transparent process. If you wish to communicate with us, the EIA, all the documentation that has been produced, will be provided. The Docks committee has met, they provided certain approvals in the past and there are certain dredging activities that were approved subsequent to some very comprehensive and detailed conditions. I don’t want to diminish the weight of my message in relation to what’s happening in Buress Cay because this is a major concern for the people of East Grand Bahama.”