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Resorts World Bimini paid $250k for EIA review

ALISON LOWE
Guardian Business Editor
alison@nasguard.com

Published: Oct 24, 2013

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Resorts World Bimini “did not bat an eyelid” at a government request to pay $250,000 for an independent consultant to review the company’s environmental impact assessment (EIA), according to Khaalis Rolle, minister of state for investments.

Rolle and Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe yesterday suggested that the government is satisfied that the developer will do everything necessary to protect the environment as it moves ahead with construction of a 1,000-foot ferry terminal and accompanying island in an area filled with nearby reefs.

In an interview with Guardian Business, Rolle said Resorts World Bimini have met all demands made of them and the government decision to grant their construction permit for the ferry terminal comes as the government tries to ensure that it accommodates the pace with which Resorts World Bimini seeks to move ahead with its development of the island.

The minister of state noted that it is not uncommon for people to protest against developments.

Rolle was responding to comments from environmental groups, including the Bahamas National Trust, who have expressed “grave” concerns about the decision by Resorts World Bimini to move ahead with construction the ferry terminal in an area surrounded by reefs and dive sites.

The BNT is particularly concerned that the permit was given before it had a chance to review the EIA connected with the project, which it was recently provided after repeated requests.

An executive summary of the EIA connected with the project has indicated that the terminal will create “direct loss of low-relief marine habitat” surrounding the pier, which will allow a superfast ferry bringing an average 1,500 people a day to Bimini to dock.

The summary, obtained by Guardian Business, notes that there are 14 “excellent” dive spots within 1.5 miles of the terminal which is now under construction, and suggests monitoring “every five years” and the creation of “an artificial reef” to “mitigate the impact.”

“The government is managing this process. We have people assigned to this as their only job. We are trying to keep up with the speed of business. What that means essentially is we look at what their needs are and we try to ensure that we meet those within all of the parameters set by the legal and regulatory authority.

“I listen to people complain about everything that is taking place. People complained and try to stop Baker’s Bay; Baker’s Bay is a very successful entity. Very successful,” said Rolle yesterday.

The minister added: “The balanced obligation is to provide sustainable development, to provide jobs, and provide entrepreneurial opportunities and the only way we do that is if we attract partners. The residents can’t do it alone. The government can’t do it alone. What we are doing now is focusing on how we can get things done rather than focusing on why we shouldn’t do anything at all.”

The minister of tourism and MP for Bimini said Biminites have raised concerns with him about the project, but he believes it will ultimately be in the best interests of the island.

“Some Biminites would obviously raise concerns as they do with any development,” he said. “But Biminites are looking for a better future, they are looking for a better economy, and you have to operate on the premise that you are making the right decisions in their interest and that keeps us up all night to ensure that you are making the right decisions, and I am praying hard that it goes well and I think it will go well.”

“The BEST commission did its due diligence and gave its approval. So whoever has to carry the work for Genting has the awesome responsibility to ensure that there is no damage done to the coral, the reefs or the general area. So I have the sense that everyone is working to ensure that we work collectively to enhance, not destroy.”

The EIA executive summary states that the ferry terminal will enable the visitor arrivals to Bimini to increase 11-fold, to 570,000 annually, “boosting” the local economy.


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