Early September will see the start of dredging in the channel leading to the canals serving the residential areas of Fortune Bay and Fortune Village, and homeowners and boaters who have been seriously inconvenienced by the silted-up waterway for at least a decade are welcoming the news.
Lucaya Service Company Ltd (LUSCO), a subsidiary of the Grand Bahama Development Company (DEVCO), made the announcement in a release on August 23.
Charisse Brown, CEO, president and senior legal counsel of DEVCO, said, “The maintenance dredging works are expected to begin early September 2022 and completion is anticipated by the end of 2022. The jetty reconstruction will follow dredging works and will begin around November 2022, with completion anticipated in early 2023.”
The statement noted that during recent hurricanes, the south shore of Grand Bahama experienced significant wave activity that formed sand shoals in the navigation canals and waterways, creating obstructions and hazards for boaters.
The jetties installed to stabilize the navigation channels were also impacted, as boulders were displaced and the retaining walls breached.
Local construction companies were invited to bid for the project, which includes repairing the entrance and dredging the channel to nine feet below mean low water for a length of 1,347 feet.
Jack Nash, the owner of a 42-foot sailboat, said it has been years since he was able to get his boat to his home.
“The situation became so bad that I have been forced to dock the boat at a marina costing $450 a month and have incurred expenses of over $17,000,” he said.
Solomon and Alex Saunders have lived in Fortune Bay for over 30 years and are very keen boaters.
Alex Saunders is the principal organizer of the annual “Battleground” Fishing Tournament.
They claim that nothing has been done to alleviate the canal problem for over 10 years, apart from putting up a couple of warning signs.
They are happy some action is finally being taken.
The LUSCO release stated that the volume of material to be removed with the maintenance dredging is considerable and it is currently working with the successful bidder, A&D Gaitor’s Equipment Rock & Sand, a Bahamian company licensed by the Grand Bahama Port Authority Limited, to finalize an approved work plan, including environmental safety measures, to minimize potential impacts that may result.
Erin Long, owner of Long’s Marine and commercial fishing vessels, said the announcement is long overdue.
“This is a long-standing problem and can’t be blamed solely on the last two hurricanes,” Long said.
“My vessels have sometimes had to wait for over 10 hours for the tide to change just to get in or out and recently, [I] have been forced to use alternative slips in other marinas. I am pleased to see that a promise of action has finally been made.”
The only business in the area is the Dolphin Experience and manager Roscoe Dickinson is delighted that the channel clearance is finally taking place.
“It has been really inconvenient navigating the channel in the past, and there were numerous times when our boats couldn’t get through, so I look forward to having a clear canal,” he said.
But Dickinson is also a little worried, adding, “We are concerned about our dolphins and how the excavation will stir up the silt and are taking precautions. Hopefully, the disturbed area will not extend close enough to our facility to affect it.”
The sand-blocked entrance does have fans who enjoy swimming in the shallower water and the fact that, at low tide, it is possible to walk between the two jetties and the beaches that have been created.
Residents and business owners say all the waterway entrances require some attention.
The Xanadu Channel is virtually blocked and has been for years.
Hurricane Dorian washed out a large portion of the eastern arm at the south entrance to the Lucayan Waterway. Residents say for the past few weeks, there have been barges carrying thousands of tons of boulders in that direction and hoped they were intended for fixing the gap.
It turned out that they were passing the entrance and destined for the new cruise ship terminal at Sharp Rocks Point about two miles farther on.
Bahama Reef residents Andrea and Joe Thompson said work that was done on their waterway was apparently not successful, because there are still numerous shallow spots.
“The whole center of the channel was never properly dredged because the equipment used could only reach the inside areas,” Andrea Thompson said.
“In one instance, an excavator actually slid into the canal and had to be hauled out. Apparently, an attempt was made to use a sand pump but it wasn’t successful and the result is that we still have a silted up canal.”
In the news release, Brown said, “Grand Bahama’s waterways are used for both commercial and recreational purposes, and the health of those waterways is critical to life on Grand Bahama, and to maintaining and growing our economy.”
LUSCO said the project manager and engineer of record for the Fortune Bay project, Phoenix Engineering Group Limited, will also be developing a comprehensive program for ongoing maintenance of the canals.