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Bahamas National Trust calls for disclosure on Bimini facility

Raises concern over possible golf course in environmentally sensitive area
ALISON LOWE
Guardian Business Editor
alison@nasguard.com

Published: Sep 02, 2013

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The Bahamas National Trust (BNT) has called on the government to disclose all details surrounding a controversial berthing facility for the Resorts World Bimini Superfast ferry which may be set to be constructed in close proximity to a sensitive ecological area in North Bimini.

The BNT said in a statement that its efforts to obtain copies of documents detailing the proposed facility from the Bahamas Investment Authority and the Bahamas Environment Science and Technology (BEST) Commission to date have been unsuccessful.

“Until these documents are received, BNT cannot provide informed comment on the proposed facility,” said the environmental organization.

The BNT said that its understanding to date is that the berthing facility will be 1,000 feet long and is intended to create a deepwater dockage for the ferry which now services the island daily.

At present, passengers on the ferry have to be transferred from the larger boat to a smaller boat to be shuttled in to the island.

Meanwhile, the BNT also expressed concern about the possibility of a golf course being constructed by Genting – the developers of Resorts World Bimini, formerly Bimini Bay – on the north side of the island.

The BNT noted that in 2009, the proposed golf course was “taken off the table” in light of fears that it would impact the “sensitive mangrove area” at the top of North Sound, Bimini. However, the BNT said it has recently received reports that the plan may have re-emerged.

“The developer argued that a golf course was part of its marketing plan, but the government held firm on its position of no development at the top of North Sound. The BNT has continued to advocate for the establishment of the Bimini MPA (marine protected area).

“As recently as October 2012, reports resurfaced about the proposed golf course and galvanized the BNT to write to the prime minister stating emphatically that the BNT remains opposed to the golf course and continues to support the establishment of the Bimini MPA.”

The BNT noted that it recognizes the need to promote development that will spur job creation on the island, and the fact that the current resort creates significant economic benefits for the island of Bimini.

However, the organization suggested that the environmental loss from ill-advised development could be heavy.

“The wetland ecosystem at the top of North Sound is significant from an ecological perspective and also as a buffer against hurricanes. The loss of the mangrove system would forever change the fisheries of Bimini. The BNT continues to advocate for the establishment of the Bimini Marine Protected Area and awaits sight of the documents with regards to the berthing facility for the Superfast ferry.”

A group of environmentalists and other Bimini stakeholders who came together to support sustainable development for Bimini created a petition earlier this year to oppose the docking facility.

As of yesterday, the petition created by the Bimini Blue Coalition on the issue had received over 2,000 signatures.

In July, Malaysian corporation Genting received government approval to begin another $150 million phase of development on Bimini that would expand the Bimini Bay resort which it acquired earlier in the year.

The new phase would cover a three-year period, with plans for two low-density hotels comprising 600 rooms and an expanded casino, among other amenities.

The project could create as many as 1,000 jobs on the island, Prime Minister Perry Christie suggested.

The latest phase of development has prompted renewed concerns from environmentalists and other Bimini stakeholders that the proposed changes are unsustainable and will not be conducted in an environmentally sensitive manner.

Multiple efforts to reach Resorts World Bimini in recent times have not been successful.

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