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Environmental groups object to John Smith’s Bay concrete plan

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John Smith's Bay cave (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Plans depicting how beachside caves as John Smiths Bay would be filled in.
John Smith's Bay cave (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Environmental groups have balked at a plan to fill in a cave at John Smith’s Bay as part of a coastal protection effort.

But Government has defended the project, arguing that it will reduce potentially hazardous erosion.

According to the application, submitted earlier this year, loose sand and debris would be removed from the “severely undercut” areas.

The caves would then be filled in with concrete backfill with “shotcrete” used on the outside to give the new rock face a natural appearance.

The project would also include the installation of at least seven longtail nests in the new rock face 8ft above the high water line.

The Bermuda Audubon Society filed an objection to the plan yesterday questioning the need for the project.

Janice Hetzel for the BAS wrote: “The application does not provide any indication as to why this project is necessary.

“The caves that they intend to fill are an interesting and iconic feature of the John Smith’s Bay park and part of Bermuda's natural heritage.

“They are the only areas on the beach that offer shade and beach goers often enjoy setting up in those locations. It is also a popular spot for our rock climbing community.”

Ms Hetzel questioned if any studies had been done on the state of erosion on the beach or the safety of the caves as no such studies were included in the application.

She also said the application did not include an environmental survey or an impact assessment.

“If public safety is the issue, then a simple and cost effective solution would be to rope off the area and post appropriate warning signage. This could be done in a way that is sensitive to the natural appearance of the area.

“If in fact structural protection is necessary, then creative measures need to be considered that provide the required stabilisation with the least impact on the visual beauty and environmental features of the area,” said Ms Hetzel.

The Bermuda National Trust said that an environmental impact assessment was needed in a letter of objection yesterday.

Myles Darrell, conservation officer with the BNT, said: “All applications for work on the coastline and coastal reserve are required to include an EIA.

“This property is particularly sensitive considering its proximity to the coast and our understanding of the future effects of climate change.

“Ultimately, we want to be sure that decisions are appropriately informed so as to avoid the need for mitigation of potential adverse effects associated with this development.”

Mr Darrell said the rock face was “iconic” and that the proposal would threaten a popular spot for recreational bouldering – a form of free climbing.

He said the application should be rejected until further investigations can be carried out.

“It is reckless to place a valuable coastal area at risk without following the very process which is designed to ensure we protect our coastal areas,” Mr Darrell added.

“As a small island, we cannot afford to take risks with the safety and security of our coastline.”

In a letter of concern dated June 24, Kim Smith of the Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Taskforce raised concerns about the proposed work, which will take place in a cave protection area and coastal reserve-zoned land.

Ms Smith said: “Unfortunately, we don't have the technical expertise to adequately assess what is being proposed for this coastal protection work but we do understand that concrete and limestone behave very differently.

“Add this to the fact that John Smith's Bay is severely impacted by hurricane-force winds and seas, we are concerned that the concrete will fairly quickly be broken, dislodged and become veritable missiles resulting in further destruction of the coastal environment.”

Last night a spokesman for the Ministry of Public Works said the project was necessary to stop erosion and protect nearby properties.

The spokesman added: “As a standard practice, the department of planning is involved in ongoing environmental consultations with stakeholders.

“The ministry will take steps to minimise the impact on the environment as much as possible. For example, the existing rock face will be replaced with a textured cement face with longtail nesting boxes to recreate their natural habitat.

“Lastly, the ministry is working with the Bermuda National Museum and other stakeholders to preserve the area’s unique characteristics for the future enjoyment of all.”

John Smith's Bay cave (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
John Smith's Bay cave (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published June 26, 2021 at 8:40 am (Updated June 26, 2021 at 8:40 am)

Environmental groups object to John Smith’s Bay concrete plan

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