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Environmentalists urge govt not to rush EIA review

Environmentalists yesterday urged the government not to rush its review of Disney Cruise Line’s (DCL) environmental impact assessment, as they push one last effort to dissuade the government from approving the $400 million cruise port development project.

DCL and the government held a virtual public meeting on the company’s extensive 500-plus page EIA, which was released last month for the project at the southernmost point of Eleuthera.

Disney submitted its EIA to the government in December 2019 and it was made public on March 10.

Members of the public have until May 6 to submit questions and feedback about the proposed development.

Executive Director of environmental group reEarth Sam Duncombe said Bahamian and international environmental groups cooperating on the Stop Disney – Last Chance for Lighthouse Point campaign announced plans to organize its own public consultations to discuss additional issues they say were not raised during the public meeting.

“Bahamians are deeply disappointed that the government is rushing the review of Disney’s EIA. The government’s one and only “public consultation” last week was a Disney show,” she said.

“The 350-plus members of the public were allocated just 40 minutes to pose one-minute questions to Disney’s experts with no follow-up. The public still needs to sort out what is “real” and what is “fantasy” in the story Disney is telling with its EIA. We are frustrated that the needed public discussion has been so extremely limited so far.”

Disney hired a team of local and international scientists who worked for more than three years to complete the EIA.

The EIA concluded that the development and operation of the cruise project at Lighthouse Point is not expected to result in a loss of terrestrial or marine biodiversity.

Disney’s Vice President of Animals, Science and the Environment Dr. Mark Penning reiterated in a press statement yesterday that DCL will only move forward with the project if it is able to do so in a way that aligns with Disney’s “deep and longstanding commitment to the environment”.

“We have spent an unprecedented three years developing one of the most comprehensive EIAs ever produced for a project in The Bahamas. Along the way, we have engaged with hundreds of stakeholders and experts throughout The Bahamas, whose thoughtful feedback has enabled us to continue to evolve our plans,” he said.

Disney has committed to low density and sustainable practices, including a zero waste landfill, an elevated design for many of its walkways and structures and generating at least 30 percent of its electricity from renewable energy.

Executive Director of Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation (BREEF) Casuarina Mckinney-Lambert said last week’s public consultation was “just the very beginning of a much-needed open conversation about Disney’s current plans for a unique natural site”.

“We are excited about our extended public consultations to assure that any decision about the future of Lighthouse Point is well-grounded in science and with real consideration of other alternatives,” she said.

The Disney EIA found that over the 758 acres it currently owns, there are 11 vegetation types, with nearly 200 vascular plant species observed during the field investigations and only two invasive species; 100 bird species either permanently live at the site or migrate there annually, and marine resources adjacent to Lighthouse Point included 11 benthic habitat types.

Disney has committed to a mitigation plan that includes a coral relocation plan to move protected corals and adult reef-building coral colonies within the development footprint and to protect and maintain populations of notable bird species that have the potential to be impacted by the development.

 

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Paige McCartney

Paige joined The Nassau Guardian in 2010 as a television news reporter and anchor. She has covered countless political and social events that have impacted the lives of Bahamians and changed the trajectory of The Bahamas. Paige started working as a business reporter in August 2016. Education: Palm Beach Atlantic University in 2006 with a BA in Radio and Television News

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