By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
A SUPREME Court Justice discharged the Privy Council’s injunction on dredging activities in Bimini yesterday, but important documents related to the Resorts World Bimini project have still not been disclosed to The Bahamas National Trust (BNT) and the public.
RWB’s Public Relations Director, Michelle Malcolm, said dredging activities began yesterday following Supreme Court Senior Justice Hartmen Longley’s ruling in a Grand Bahama courtroom.
His ruling came a week after the Privy Council granted the Bimini Blue Coalition’s (BBC) injunction request, ruling that before dredging could continue, the developer must prove to the Supreme Court or Court of Appeal that a permit it obtained last week Thursday under the Conservation and Protection of the Physical Landscape of the Bahamas Act (CPPLB) was valid.
The Senior Justice also ruled that the BBC must pay all the expenses of the government and the developer, both before the Privy Council and the Supreme Court.
Ms Malcolm said: “We are pleased with the ruling and will resume dredging operation today, resulting in many Biminites immediately getting back to work. The people of Bimini know that Resorts World Bimini is an enormously positive development for the economy and ethos of the island, and we are hopeful that outside special interests will finally cease their litigious efforts to stand in the way of a project that the local people so clearly want. We now look forward to completing the construction of the cruise pier expeditiously so that we can open the full destination resort, and continue to provide many jobs and opportunities for Biminites.”
Nonetheless, Eric Carey, executive director of the Bahamas National Trust (BNT), told The Tribune yesterday that his organisation has not been given important documents on the project, which will see the construction of a cruise ship terminal, 1,000-foot pier and man-made island.
Earlier this month, the press revealed that the government granted RWB permission to dredge four times the amount of material than had previously been disclosed to the public.
Following this revelation, the BNT called for the government to disclose to the public an amended Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) and Environment Management Plan (EMP) which would address concerns raised with the expanded dredging.
However, Mr Carey said yesterday: “We have not received the documents. The minister said he will have his staff contact us to set up a meeting, but we’re still waiting to have that meeting.”
In fact, on May 9th, Environment and Housing Minister Kenred Dorsett refused to answer reporters’ questions about controversial construction and dredging in Bimini during a press conference he called to dismiss concerns about dredging in Buress Cay, Grand Bahama.
At the time, the Minister 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.”
Nonetheless, dredging first began on May 16th and there has been no attempt by Mr Dorsett or anyone else in his government to officially address dredging concerns in Bimini.
In addition, emails with questions sent from The Tribune to Mr Dorsett’s public relations officer have not been acknowledged.
As for yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling, Mr Carey said it does not mark the end of concerns over the project.
“This isn’t going to stop concerned folks from putting pressure on the developer to prevent the types of abuses that have been taking place,” he said. “The injunction was whether the permits were valid or not. Our concerns are still with the lack of apparent safeguards, with reefs being laden with silt, with silt spreading along the ocean.”
Referring to aerial photos of dredging taken two weeks ago which showed plume spreading across the ocean, Mr Carey said: “The now famous photos of silt pouring from out of the curtains has raised valid concerns. Pictures don’t lie; they were not doctored, not photoshopped. People will still hold the developer accountable. What the injunction did and the fact that dredging was stopped for five days surely proved to people that they could go to the court and be heard.”
He said: “We understand that the former minister of environment, his company is advising on the environment management plan; we’re certainly going to reach out to Dr Earl Devaux and find out how serious this project will be managed and how his company is able to prevent the instances of abuse that we’ve seen.”
The Tribune understands that the Bimini Blue Coalition will immediately seek to appeal yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling.