By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
The Abaco Club’s principal, and environmental advisers, have pledged to the Government that its proposed marina/docking facility in Little Harbour will require no dredging.
The promise, sent in separate letters to the Bahamas Environment, Science and Technology (BEST) Commission within the last three weeks, appears designed to both reassure the Christie administration and mollify opposition to the project.
David Southworth, president and chief executive of Southworth Development, which acquired the Abaco Club in December 2014 in partnership with a group of homeowners, wrote on May 19: “Please allow this letter to confirm that no dredging will take place as part of our plans for the Little Harbour members’ docking facility.”
He was backed up less than a week later by the Abaco Club’s environmental consultant, Keith Bishop, who told BEST in a May 25, 2016, letter that he had been asked by his client to “clarify” several sections in the project’s Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).
The Islands By Design principal, who produced the EIA dated December 2014, said he had been “incorrect” to state in his recommendations for the Little Harbour project that dredging was necessary to ensure boats could reach the docking facility.
“As dredging will be required for safe passage to the proposed dock, best management practices for the management of suspended sediment shall be included,” Mr Bishop had written in December 2014, in relation to the project’s Environmental Management Plan (EMP).
However, in his May 25 letter to Philip Weech, the BEST Commission’s director, Mr Bishop said: “This statement is incorrect.
“Whilst previous correspondences have sought to correct this matter, for final clarification the developer has categorically stated that no dredging will take place.
“The EIA correctly states no dredging with references made elsewhere on page 6, as well as on pages 53, 57 and 64.”
The two letters, together with the EIA, an Environmental Management Plan (EMP) dated August 2015, and a site plan, were all published yesterday on the BEST Commission website.
Their release, together with the June 27 Town Meeting to discuss the Abaco Club’s plans for its Little Harbour facility, appears to be a direct response to the Judicial Review launched against the project by Responsible Development for Abaco (RDA).
That action was allowed to proceed by the Supreme Court on May 24, at the same time that the two letters were written. The Town Meeting also seems designed to counter the main thrust of RDA’s legal challenge, namely that both developer (the Abaco Club) and the Government have failed to engage in “adequate consultation” with residents and affected parties in Little Harbour.
Apart from the 44-slip private dock, the Abaco Club’s planned supporting facilities include a supplies shop, private restaurant and 6,000 square foot covered parking lot.
RDA fears that if the project goes ahead it will completely change the environment and character of Little Harbour, a 50-home community that runs almost entirely off solar power.
Mr Bishop’s ‘clarification’ letter, meanwhile, focuses on a number of issue that raised concern among Little Harbour residents following a September 2015 town meeting.
Abaco Club officials said then that the developer’s plans had changed to include a reverse osmosis water plant, pump-out station and electricity generator.
Tackling the water supply issue, Mr Bishop’s letter said that if collected rainwater “does not suffice for demand”, it will be “supplemented” by water trucked to the Little Harbour facility from the Abaco Club’s Winding Bay site.
As for wastewater treatment, Mr Bishop said a septic tank and drain field will not be employed at the Little Harbour site.
“Water quality testing has been conducted by the Water and Sewerage Corporation (WSC),” he wrote. “The E. Coli results were extremely elevated over a number of test sites.
“Based upon this, the developer has now determined that sanitary wastes will be collected and transported to the Winding Bay treatment plant that is an approved WSC facility.
“Whilst the subject property has remained unoccupied for a number of years and has not contributed to any waste streams in Little Harbour, the developer has chosen not to risk adding to any further potential water degradation.”
Mr Bishop also moved to clarify “the hierarchy for power supply” at the docking facility, confirming that solar photovoltaic (PV) would take the lead and be supplemented by a stand-by diesel powered generator.
“There is no municipal supply to Lower Harbour,” he added. “This method of power generation is in keeping with the rest of the community. The only fuel storage on site will be day tanks for the stand-by generator.”
Mr Bishop also said the total number of full-time jobs created by the Little Harbour facility would “potentially exceed the stated maximum” in the EIA, although no revised figure was provided.
“Labour estimates are estimated to be approximately eight persons during the construction phase and a maximum of two persons during the operational phase,” the EIA said, citing figures that are unlikely to impress many Little Harbour residents.
They are likely to be more interested in learning what permit applications have been made for the project, and where these have reached in the Government’s approvals process.
These details were not made available on the BEST website, and had it not been for RDA’s Judicial Review, it is likely all documents related to the Little Harbour project would have remained private.
“This Environmental Impact Assessment for the members docking facility at Little Harbour recommends moving forward with the proposed development and finds no significant impact,” Mr Bishop concluded in December 2014.
“Additionally, the capital investment will positively impact the local community of Marsh Harbour and Little Harbour by providing employment and occupational transfer of skills, while expanding the touristic offerings of Little Harbour.
“The developer emphasises a local Bahamian workforce with minimal environmental impacts through the use of renewable energy technology, smart building design, and high efficiency products.”