Why BEST is objecting to South Basin project
This is the first in a series of articles on the proposed development in the South Basin at Dockyard and why the Bermuda Environmental and Sustainability Taskforce is objecting to it.
The main issue is the environmental impact of the development and how poorly that impact has been assessed.
Another key issue is the America's Cup and how its urgency is being used to try to force some aspects of the development through without due process.
We will look at the development, the process, what the issues are and their possible resolution.
The South Basin development scheme consists basically of three parts:
1. The landfill of 11 acres of ocean
2. The interim-use of the 11 acres of newly created land by the America's Cup for their “Event Village” — termed as Phase 1
3. The end use of the 11 acres for consolidated marine and ports offices and operations, a commercial marine facility boatyard and a marina ostensibly for luxury yachts — termed Phase 2
Examples of environmental impact
Each of these facets will have a significant environmental impact, and the application for development was required to have an environmental impact assessment (EIA) and an environmental impact statement (EIS) based on the EIA.
To give some idea of the impacts:
1. The landfill will bury 11 acres of productive marine habitat, converting it almost completely to an industrial-grade landmass. One purpose of the EIA/EIS would be to balance the ecological and economic losses that would occur against the economic gains, including biosphere, protected plants and fish species, marine habitat and nursery value
2. The full extent of the interim uses is unknown — we've never had an America's Cup series in Bermuda before. We may have some idea of what an Event Village will consist of, eg, arenas with stages and screens, covered gathering places for meetings and lectures and shows, food and product sellers, and toilets. What we don't know is how many people will gather; it could be hundreds or thousands. So there will be lots of toilets, lots of waste generated and lots of transportation issues
3. Once the AC35 Event Village is disassembled, assuming it is going to be a temporary set-up, the main developer, Wedco, will have 11 acres of virtually empty land to play with. That 11 acres wrested from the ocean could have been slated for a cultural centre, a convention centre, a training academy for cricket, football or mariners. We would like to have seen consideration of recreation or culture or parkland for the newly created land as part of a consultation process with the public. Instead, without any public consultation, Wedco has targeted Bermuda's new acres for industrial uses.
Haste makes waste
Just to be clear, although we are concerned about what the end uses will entail, we are more concerned about the process of how those end uses were chosen — there should have been public consultation and involvement.
The minister and Wedco's chairman publicly promised consultation, but it never happened; not before the decision was already made.
When the Bermuda Government was trying to attract the America's Cup to Bermuda, we understand that Wedco was assuring that all was in order for use of South Basin for the Event Village site — that all ducks were in a row, but they were not.
Once AC35 accepted Bermuda's proposal, the pressure was on. Suddenly, there was an urgency and the “need” to bypass whatever process that would “get in the way”.
The end-uses decision does not have to be rushed
It may be in the “national interest” to speed things along for the America's Cup, but taking short cuts, not following the correct procedures, neglecting public consultation and allowing part of the project to be governed by an inferior impact assessment goes against the national interest.
Two or three years from now, when the America's Cup has gone, we may have more pressing needs for that 11 acres than as an industrial area for Wedco. There is no need to be rushed into that decision.
In any case, surely the America's Cup wants to improve on its overall environmental reputation; not take backward steps. Surely, it wants to do at least as good environmentally in Bermuda as it did at the previous America's Cup in San Francisco. We believe it can.
• In the next instalment, BEST will look at some key environmental protections in place here in Bermuda and how they worked, or did not work, for this project.