BAILEY TOWN, Bimini – Minister of the Environment Earl Deveaux led a high-level team to Bimini for a town meeting last Friday to discuss concerns regarding the Bimini Bay project.
The construction of a hotel, golf course and additional dredging in the sensitive Bimini mangroves are among the concerns of residents.
The government commissioned the American firm Black and Veatch of Kansas to perform a compliance analysis of the development. It was determined that going forward, all activities would be in accordance with an environment management plan, said Mr Deveaux.
Following completion of the compliance analysis, the developer Gerardo Capo was presented with the findings, and the report was posted on the BEST Commission’s website.
The compliance analysis was presented by Andrew Byers, Associate Vice President, Environmental Services, Black and Veatch. He was assisted in its preparation by aquatic biologist Dr Earnst Peebles.
The analysis identified a number of issues that need to be addressed. Primary among them was the lack of an environmental management plan for phase one, the requirement for an environmental impact assessment for future phases, and the need to have someone on site to supervise environmental issues.
Critical among the issues to be addressed, noted Minister Deveaux, are the feasibility of a golf course, preservation of the marine protected area and employment and immigration.
“The project is approved and we would like to see it go forward,” said Mr Deveaux, “but we have some particular environmental issues that are required to be addressed.”
In declaring the marine protected area Minister Deveaux said, “we want to ensure that the eco-system of Bimini is held intact and continues to contribute to this part of the Bahamas and the western Atlantic.
“So the golf course, the hotel and the additional dredging will have to take place in a way that doesn’t have any negative impact on the marine protected area. We want to ensure also that there is oversight in management of the ongoing development.”
Minister Deveaux said he was “very pleased” with the outcome of the meetings. “We made great progress in how we could inform public opinion going forward.”
The multi-million-dollar Bimini Bay has “a vital role to play in the future of Bimini,” he said. “We want to accommodate the development going forward based on the compliance analysis completed by Black and Veatch.”
Bimini Bay works approved by the government for the $100 million phase one include a world-class rated hotel with no less than 200 rooms; an American style casino of approximately 10,000 square feet; a channel from the entrance of the harbor to a marina of not less than 150 boat slips; residential subdivisions consisting of not less than 78 lots; not less than 75 condominiums; a golf course together with club house and associated amenities; and roads, waterways, pathways and green ways to service the resort.
The agreement was amended in June 2004 to expand the hotel and golf course and to facilitate a five-year upgrade to FAA standards to the airport facilities on South Bimini. The developer agreed for a significant social contribution to the people of The Bahamas particularly Bimini by constructing a primary school to accommodate 250 children.
He also agreed to co-operate with the Ministry of Education and Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute to provide reasonable assistance to encourage the development of highly skilled personnel.
“The Bimini Bay project had been controversial from the beginning because of personality issues, perception of capacity, and appropriateness,” said Mr Deveaux.
“I am under no illusions about the cynicism and deep feelings regarding this project,” he said. “However it is my firm belief that the Bahamas government, its agencies, approved developers and the Bahamian communities can work together to achieve the best result in an imperfect set of circumstances.
“The islands of Bimini are unique on the Great Bahama Bank and all of the cultural, environmental and human elements about Bimini that make it special and unique must be factored into considerations to preserve essential components of the whole,” said Mr Deveaux.
Mr Deveaux was accompanied by Minister of Works Neko Grant, Minister of Housing Kenneth Russell, Minister of State for the Environment Phenton Neymour, heads of government departments, and officers from non-governmental environmental agencies. They were joined in Bimini by Administrator Sherrick Ellis, Chief Councillor Lloyd Edgecombe, and local government officials.
Chief Councillor Lloyd Edgecombe (standing) makes a point during a local government meeting. Pictured from left are Andrew Byers of Black and Veatch; Phillip Weech, Director, BEST Commission; Minister of State for the Environment Phenton Neymour; Minister of the Environment, Earl Deveaux; Permanent Secretary Ronald Thompson; and Edison Deleveaux, Deputy Director, Department of Marine Resources. (BIS photo by Derek Smith).
Conservationist Pericles Maillis, Phillip Weech, Director, BEST Commission Minister of State of the Environment Phenton Neymour and local government official Oral Ellis inspect docking facilities at Bimini Bay. (BIS photo by Derek Smith)
There was standing room only at Friday’s town meeting with Minister of the Environment Earl Deveaux on the Bimini Bay project. (BIS photo by Derek Smith)
Minister of the Environment Earl Deveaux makes a point during the town meeting on the Bimini Bay project. (BIS photo by Derek Smith)