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Activists demand 90-day extension to Disney review

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Sam Duncombe

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

Environmental activists yesterday urged the government to extend the consultation over the Lighthouse Point project to 90 days while accusing it of leaving the process “in Disney’s hands”.

Sam Duncombe, reEarth’s president, yesterday told Tribune Business that the public consultation over the planned cruise destination appeared to be akin “to the fox guarding the chickens” given that it was Disney - and not the Department of Environmental Planning and Protection (DEPP) - that had taken over responsibility for receiving and collating public feedback.

“The reality is that the clock should have started running from the time they presented the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA),” Mrs Duncombe said of the activists’ bid for a 40-day extension to the consultation period allowed by the government.

“Disney is accepting comments on the project, and the EIA has not even been put on the DEPP’s website. They are not asking for comments. They have basically put the entire process in Disney’s hands. If that’s not the fox guarding the chickens, I don’t know what is.

“I find the government’s position egregious in that they are allowing a foreign developer to guide the conversation about what should and shouldn’t happen in this country. The EIA has major gaps and holes in it.”

Mrs Duncombe said she and other Bahamian environmental groups are still studying the 551-page EIA, but identified one of the alleged flaws as the seeming absence of any study on bonefish migration.

Arguing that Disney Cruise Line had held the activists “at arm’s length and struck us out of the ball park” by failing to engage with their concerns, she added that the EIA did not address the impacts and consequences of climate change fully enough.

Mrs Duncombe and her colleagues in the Stop Disney - Last Chance for Lighthouse Point coalition, in a March 26, 2021, letter to Romauld Ferreira, minister of the environment and housing, argued that it was only fair to extend the public consultation from 50 to 90 days given that the cruise line had spent three years putting its EIA together.

“We are writing to request an extension of the public consultation process and additional information regarding the timeline for Disney Cruise Line’s draft EIA for the proposed cruise ship port at Lighthouse Point in Southern Eleuthera,” they said, noting the April 8 virtual meeting that will allow the Bahamian public to discuss the document.

Final public comments are due on the EIA, which was released on March 10, 2021, by April 29. “

“At this point, there is no information about the format and agenda for the April 8 meeting. There is no available information about the details of the process or the timeline for the Government’s review of the EIA following the April 29 deadline. We cannot conduct a meaningful review of the EIA without a fully transparent public consultation process,” Mrs Duncombe and her colleagues wrote.

“We are also dismayed by Disney’s apparent role in receiving comments from the public. The Government of the Bahamas needs to assure that the comments are in fact seriously considered in the final decision on the project. We remain eager to work with you to make this public consultation as effective as possible in providing a well-informed basis for the decision on the future of Lighthouse Point.

“We request that you extend the public consultation period to 90 days. This is a more reasonable timeline to review a 551-page document that took Disney three years to develop, and the Department of Environmental Planning and Protection more than a year to review,” they added.

“Prior to the release of the EIA, our experts repeatedly attempted to engage in discussions with Disney about its scope. Disney rebuffed their input. Disney chose to brief other Bahamian and international organisations about the EIA before it became publicly available but did not even provide our experts with advanced notice of its release.”

Other signatories to the letter include Joe Darville of Save the Bays, Rashema Ingraham of Waterkeepers Bahamas, and Casuarina McKinney Lambert of BREEF. Their petition opposing Disney’s project has garnered more than 440,000 signatures globally.

Comments

SipPis 3 years, 3 months ago

Incredible. Disney takes 3 years to make the EIA to appease every last concern of these radicals. Then the radicals complain they should have more time to review it because it took 3 years. There's no negotiating with terrorists.

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