Bimini developers: Construction just a ‘test’
Published: Oct 07, 2013
Resorts World Bimini admitted on Friday that it had started construction on a controversial jetty for which it has yet to receive construction permits, but claimed that the only work to date involved “test-driving pylons, which can be removed”.
Meanwhile, the company has suggested that the ability for the superfast ferry to dock directly in Bimini should benefit locals by “eliminating high freight charges” to bring goods to the island and through “daily imports of fresh produce”, as well as by providing a potential means to export goods like fish, conch and Bimini Bread to Florida.
In a release issued Friday by Director of Public Affairs Michelle Malcolm, Resorts World Bimini said it attended a “special sitting” of the Bimini Local Government Council last week in order to “set the record straight” over the pier and other aspects of the resort development which have drawn attention in recent weeks from environmentalists and concerned Biminites, some of whom felt they lacked critical information about the development plans.
It is not clear how many people attended the meeting.
The meeting comes after complaints from organizations such as the Bimini Blue Coalition and the Bahamas National Trust that they and the public have yet to see an environmental impact assessment relating to the pier project, and that Biminites have not been adequately informed about the plans affecting the 8.8 square mile island.
The government, meanwhile, has confirmed that an EIA is in their hands but is not “final”, and that no permits have yet been given to Resorts World Bimini to move ahead with the pier to accommodate its superfast ferry.
According to Resorts World Bimini, during the meeting attendees were informed about plans for the jetty. Oceans Consulting company representative Kirk Lofgren said that “substantial work” was done to determine where it could be placed to ensure “the least environmental damage.”
“The area that was finally chosen was selected because it is central to the resort and the island and because it has the least amount of coral to be affected,” said the release.
Lofgren told participants that “less than five percent” of coral will be affected, and any coral that is there will be moved to the area known as the Three Sisters where an artificial reef will be established.
The jetty will allow for sand and water to flow beneath it, in a manner which Resort World representative, Colin Au, said would allow for the “least impact” on the surrounding environment.
“In other words, we’re building the jetty like a bridge on stilts. You see it all over the Caribbean and the world. That’s the only way a big ship can come,” said Au.
Au said that the Superfast Ferry, which has been bringing 1,500 passengers daily to the island since its July launch is “the most economical way to bring people here to enjoy themselves”.
“If we have a jetty, people can stay on the island hours longer – five hours instead of the current two hours that guests now have...in five hours they could double their spending, enjoy the beach, visit Alice Town and so on. For people who don’t want to put on a uniform and serve people, you can be your own entrepreneurs,” he said.
He told the meeting that the influx of people should be manageable if the number of visitors is considered with respect to Bimini’s population size.
“When you look at the ratio of 1,400 people living in Bimini welcoming 1,500 visitors per day, it’s only a ratio of 1:1,” he said.
Leslie Bethel, CEO of NOTARC Management Group said that Resort World Bimini’s proposals call for a “cooperative effort” between RWB and residents of Bimini, adding that the resort would only be successful with their support.
“This is an opportunity for this island to embrace advancements from an economic perspective,” he said.
Meanwhile, land planners tasked with creating a master plan for the island, ESDA, said they were working closely with the local government to “protect the interests of the people of Bimini.”
Associate Principal of ESDA Jeff Suiter pledged the company would have “multiple meetings” over the next several months to “gather ideas and figure out the best plan”, said the RWB release.
Meanwhile, Rafael Reyes, president of Rav Bahamas, said the company is expecting its permits to arrive “any day now”.
Concerned parties, such as environmental attorney Romauld Ferreira, have suggested that the company should not get permits before there has been a public consultation with respect to the EIA, noting that The Bahamas is signatory to conventions which call for time for such consultations prior to development approvals being granted.