Building bridges, roads and restoring natural systems on Andros

Dear Editor,

“Wonderful” and “great” were only two of the superlatives used to describe the fulfilment of the decision by the government to sign the contract to relocate and build the bridge in Staniard Creek, Andros.

It was indeed wonderful and great to witness the advance of an event many others and I have so long desired.

It was in 1979 when Hurricane David blew across Andros and closed up the mouth of Sandy Creek and thereby accelerated the degradation of the Staniard Creek drainage system.

The construction of the East West causeway and the rebuild of the existing bridge only added to the loss of water flow and biodiversity, and the reduced contribution of this unique system.

Observing the same day the reconstruction of London Creek, west of Stafford Creek, with a bridge to allow water to flow freely from the ocean to Stafford Creek, in its normal historical circular pattern after more than 60 years, is indeed something wonderful and great.

One only has to see No Name Creek a little farther north to witness what happens when road development has no regard for creeks and wetlands.

According to Pericles Maillis, a well-known attorney, naturalist and Bahamian conservation icon, “…An earlier government, BNT, Ducks Unlimited, friends and Wetland Restoration Initiative had funded Casuarina McKinney to document the importance of over 40 such systems throughout The Bahamas, including Sandy Creek.

“IDB also documented the sedimentation of the system and its negative impact on the marine nursery system.”

The establishment of Wetlands Care Bahamas and studies by many scientists provided mounting evidence of the need to restore and rehabilitate these natural systems.

Adelaide Creek restoration on New Providence and Bird Pond on Andros provided compelling evidence of the benefits, but were insufficient to spur national consciousness to everyday planning and action when building across wetlands.

The systems suffered as a result. Staniard Creek and London Creek contracts signalled a fundamentally different approach for Andros.

Throughout The Bahamas, the creeks and wetlands make a vital contribution to the Bahamian way of life.

However, on Andros, on the east and west coast, nowhere in our country are these systems so vital. They are the breeding ground for the inhabitants of the Great Andros Barrier Reef.

They are the stocking ground for the Great Bahama Bank.

They are the replenishment zones for the biodiversity caused by the proximity of the Tongue of Ocean, Barrier Reef, fresh and salt-water exchange on the fifth largest Caribbean island, with its vast expanse of wetlands, interspersed with tidal creeks, making the entire system of the west coast of Andros the greatest salt water estuary in the western Atlantic Ocean.

It is indeed wonderful and great to witness two events on the same day that will contribute so significantly to the health of these systems.

It was heartwarming to hear of the promise of the restoration of the Fresh Creek and Stafford Creek bridges and other man-made impediments.

Significantly, the execution of the contract coincided with the National Dialogue of Global Environment Facility (GEF) projects writing taking place on New Providence.

Clearly, the confluence of years of advocacy, political maturity and will coupled with the response to hard evidence has spurred the government and its officials, with renewed focus and appreciation, on what is hoped to be an irreversible course of action to have regard when building roads, bridges, causeways and while approving development.

I, for one, am deeply appreciative of the prime minster, minister of works and the team of engineers who have responded so tangibly to the science, community and environmental stewardship for the posterity of Andros and the Bahamian people.

I agree with Maillis’ conclusion that, “The restoration of Tidal Creek flows, up the whole Andros east coast and elsewhere, remains in my view and dream, as singularly the best use of funding opportunities.”

– Earl D. Deveaux

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