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Transport Minister insists no decisions have been made on dredging channels

“We haven’t spent your money without telling you” is the message from Transport Minister Terry Lister, who insists no decisions have been made on dredging Bermuda’s shipping channels.

Mr Lister has announced he wants to speak to the public directly about controversial suggestions to widen Town Cut in St George’s and Hamilton Harbour.

He said people would have the chance to discuss the ways the Island could accommodate larger cruise ships at a series of town hall meetings next month.

The meetings will address the environmental concerns, engineering feasibility and cost of dredging the shipping channels.

Mr Lister said he was giving people the chance to ask questions as he was “sick” of reading comments and blogs saying Government had “spent our money without telling us anything”.

Mr Lister said he would not discuss the findings of Government’s “big, fat report” titled ‘Study of Bermuda’s Shipping Channels to Accommodate Larger Cruise Ships’ before the meetings.

It has previously been reported that one suggestion is to at least double the size of Town Cut in St George’s at a cost of up to $70 million, which would involve the likely loss of Higgs, Hen and Horseshoe Islands.

The study is also said to include a recommendation to widen Two Rock Passage at a cost of just under $60 million to allow larger cruise ships into Hamilton Harbour.

But Mr Lister would not confirm this at a press conference yesterday, instead he urged residents to attend the town hall meetings on October 11, 12 and 13.

Mr Lister said it was “extremely disappointing” that the report had already been leaked to the media, as “the public discourse process has now been pre-empted”.

He said: “The Ministry has honoured its commitment to ensure the process was inclusive but despite our best efforts others have chosen to betray the trust that was established.

“To make an informed and well-founded decision, it is important to gather the facts and data to evaluate the risks, impacts and opportunities, and this is the overarching objective of the study. At this very early stage no decision has been made and there remains much work to be done on this subject.”

Mr Lister added that everyone would have the chance to find out more about the report and ask questions at the town hall meetings.

He said: “I encourage the public to come out to these meetings so that we can move forward in a spirit of consultation and cooperation.”

Mr Lister said his Ministry would only look at moving forward with definite plans once they had “all the input from all people”.

The Minister explained there were “four areas being looked at” and the public feedback would help dictate whether they go ahead with “just one or maybe all four”.

The four options are understood to be deepening, widening and realigning the North Channel, plus dredging the South Channel from its depth of 8.5-9.5 metres to 11 metres.

The Department of Marine & Ports started work on the report in January and Mr Lister said “a lot of work has gone into it”.

The first draft was drawn up in June and the second draft in August with the input of stakeholders being included in the final report.

Those who have given feedback include the Departments of Environmental Protection and Conservation Services, Ministry of Public Works, the Corporations of Hamilton and St George, the National Trust and BEST.

The report is also understood to highlight the economic impact faced by St George’s and Hamilton because of the loss of a regular cruise ship.

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Published September 28, 2011 at 8:31 am (Updated September 28, 2011 at 8:31 am)

Transport Minister insists no decisions have been made on dredging channels

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