By RICARDO WELLS
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE government is considering the construction of a new $30m bridge to replace the often-hampered Glass Window Bridge in North Eleuthera.
Works Minister Desmond Bannister yesterday suggested the move in an interview with reporters outside of Cabinet, contending the investment could finally alleviate the long-standing issues of residents on that island.
The Glass Window Bridge had to be closed on Sunday by authorities due to large and dangerous swells affecting the area. This curtailed travel between the north and south portions of the island.
On Monday, police said they were searching for a 19-year-old American man who was reportedly swept out to sea at Queen’s Bath, near the bridge. A day earlier, it was reported four people were injured before 3.30pm as they attempted to climb rocks on the side of the bridge.
Mr Bannister said engineers on the ground in Eleuthera have reported that those “shocking conditions” experienced over the weekend have resulted in extensive damage to the bridge and connecting roadways.
He told reporters: “In one place, just down from the bridge, they have an area where the water has cut through the road almost eight-feet deep.”
Mr Bannister continued: “So, we have some serious conditions that have been impacting the people in North Eleuthera that we have to look at very seriously and we are doing that right now.”
The Carmichael MP said the resulting impact has forced the government to move up plans to either repair or replace the bridge.
“As I indicated earlier, we have to look at a long-term solution. The Glass (Window) Bridge is not something that should be in our long-term plans.”
Mr Bannister said while officials are open to evaluating the bridge to determine its structural soundness, plans for a new bridge can no longer be delayed.
“We need to budget this year to construct a real bridge,” he said.
“But the reality is, the long-term solution is we are building a new bridge what could cost in the region of $30m to $40m.”
Last weekend’s severe weather and dangerous sea swells also affected sections of New Providence.
Residents in western New Providence on Monday faced surges along the island’s northern front.
Addressing that occurrence, Mr Bannister said officials also dispatched crews to those affected areas to coordinate clean-up efforts.
He said those efforts were expected to continue throughout the week.
Mr Bannister said officials at the Ministry of Works have recognised the increase in cases of severe storms and sea surges.
Referring to an Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) $35m loan which was approved last November, the Carmichael MP said the government now possesses the funding needed to replant mangroves along coastal areas across the country, as a means to offset all forms of surge.
Mr Bannister said: “We have serious erosion issues.”
He continued: “There is an IDB loan where we are going to be seeking to plant mangroves which is really, better sure protection than these walls we are putting up.
“We will be seeking to remove a lot of these Casuarina trees which cause the erosion to happen a lot quicker than they have happened.
“We are going to try to ensure that we protect our shorelines throughout the country.
“That is a critical issue for this country, replanting of the natural vegetation which protects the shorelines much better than sea walls.”