Disney Cruise Line’s (DCL) environmental impact assessment (EIA) for its multimillion-dollar Lighthouse Point cruise port development is complete and under review by the Bahamas Environment, Science and Technology (BEST) Commission.
In a statement to Guardian Business, Disney said that it submitted the document to government in late December and has been advised that the BEST Commission will post the document on its website after its feedback is incorporated and government reviews are complete.
“Disney, along with its own animal and conservation experts, assembled a team of highly qualified and experienced scientists and other professionals who spent more than two years developing a comprehensive environmental impact assessment,” the company revealed.
“The EIA is based on extensive field work, robust data collection and analysis, direct engagement with those who have studied the site, the species observed there and an exhaustive review of available literature.”
Disney noted that additional public consultation will occur as part of the site plan approval process.
Minister of the Environment and Housing Romauld Ferreira, when contacted about the EIA yesterday, said it will go through a review process.
“I am going to read it but it’s a very large document, it’s not like bedtime reading. It’s technical with a lot of technical terms. With all the appendices it is well over 500 pages,” he told Guardian Business.
Based on its sheer size and technicality, Ferreira said it’s unclear how long the review process will take.
“What happens with these kinds of projects and an EIA of that kind of technical detail and that kind of volume is it’s going to generate a number of requisitions, so it’s hard to foreshadow how many, that would have to do with the technical team that is doing the formal assessing. I’m not a member of that technical team, I just can understand the language. So that process will generate requisitions and those requisitions will then be forwarded back over to the project proponent who in turn will answer them,” he said.
“So, there’s that back-and-forward engagement that has to happen and it’s hard to foreshadow the length of time that would take. So, issues that are described in the EIA always lead to further requisitions which have to be responded to, which would have to be ventilated properly and then at the foot of that you would have the environmental management plan and then you move forward.”
The project, pegged to cost anywhere between $250 million to $400 million, has come under heavy scrutiny by local and environmental activists who fear the planned cruise port would imperil the Lighthouse Point ecosystem.
Disney maintained yesterday that it will only move forward with the project if it is able to do so in an environmentally responsible way.
“We plan to develop less than 20 percent of the property, much of it for low-density uses like the placement of beach chairs, umbrellas and small support structures. Far more will be donated and/or left undeveloped. As a note, the previous government-approved project for the site included plans for hundreds of homes, condos, villas, a hotel and a 140-slip marina constructed through the salt ponds. The site had been privately owned for decades and was on the market for quite some time before we purchased it,” Disney has said.
“For the areas we do plan to develop, we are focusing on sustainable design and building practices. For example, the construction of an innovative open-trestle pier that extends to deep water will prevent the dredging of a ship channel and a proposed elevated design for many walkways and structures will reduce impacts to the natural environment. We are committed to meeting at least 30 percent of the energy demand for the project from renewable energy. We have already established environmental monitoring programs that will continue through construction and into operation.”
The government signed a heads of agreement with DCL on March 7, 2019.