South Sound mangrove threat
(CNS): The Central Planning Authority (CPA) has once again given permission to a project that will allow a developer to remove critical recovering mangrove buffer. Despite recommendations from the environment and the planning departments against the application, the CPA have given the nod to RC Estates to remove 50 feet of recovering buffer that runs 2,000ft along the coastal lots of a proposed development in the South Sound. The developer will be filling the area with marl and extending the lots into the ocean, which is also a marine replenishment zone. Both environmental activists and residents in the area said they were bitterly disappointed by the decision which will place not only the newly replenished mangrove under threat but the local marine environment as well.
The CPA met on 15 August to consider RC Estates application to modify an approval from 2003. The original plan had provided for the developer to build a seawall at the inner edge of the 50ft mangrove buffer. The seawall was approved but it was conditional on the developer leaving the mangroves in place.
However, the applicants asked for an amendment to move the seawall location as indicated in plans submitted to the CPA and to remove the condition to retain the mangrove buffer. They claimed the mangrove was damaged and in other instances in the area developers had not been required to retain a mangrove buffer. The CPA approved the change, which means the buffer can be removed and the developer now has the green light to fill in the area and build a 9ft concrete sea wall.
Although the area was damaged by Ivan, the Department of Environment (DoE), with assistance from the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Migratory Bird Conservation and Reef Ball Foundation, has invested time, energy and public resources into the replenishment of the buffer, which was beginning to grow back.
During the recent hearing the DoE presented extensive evidence of the recovery to the CPA and listed a catalogue of environmental issues relating to the removal of the recovering buffer as well as the importance of continuing to replenish the area and not remove more. The DoE also pointed to the sensitivity and significance of the area as a Marine Replenishment Zone and as a protected Scenic Coastline Zone.
The planning department also advised against the removal of the mangrove, pointing out that the preservation of mangrove buffer at the high-water mark was best planning practice. “From Department’s perspective, the 50’ buffer should be retained,” the planning department said in its recommendations
The Development Plan (1997) designates this area as being a ‘Scenic Coastline Zone’ and Section 20 of the Development and Planning Regulations (2006 Revision) requires the CPA to ensure that the open character of scenic coastline land is preserved and to safeguard the public’s right to use the beaches and to gain access to them through public rights of way. In addition, the plan states that “the panoramic views and vistas provided by these coastlines are natural assets which are to be safeguarded for present and future generations.”
Despite the recommendations from the two government departments, the CPA said it was swayed by the presentation given by the applicant’s lawyer that the owners had a legal right to develop the land. The attorney argued that his client’s land had a fixed boundary, which the sea had eroded, but it was still his client’s boundary.
The argument comes in the wake of a recent report pointing to the critical significance of mangroves in arresting storm surge among many other benefits.
The CPA has given permission to the removal of mangrove buffer on other occasions, most significantly the removal, more than two years ago of over 350,000 sq ft of mangrove buffer at the North Sound on the land belonging at the time to the Ritz Carlton developer, Michael Ryan.
Officials from the DoE have lamented the failure of the mangrove buffer designation to protect this critical habitat and has stated several times this is one more reason why the country is in desperate need of a National Conservation Law, which would ensure environmental considerations are paid more than mere lip service in the face of development.
With the newly recovering mangrove now under serious threat, activists in the area are calling on the wider community to help preserve the buffer. They are asking people to write letters and submit comment to the media, and to the Minister of the Environment Mark Scotland as well as other members of Cabinet. The campaigners are also asking for volunteers to help with legal, marketing and other expertise, or to donate to the Protect South Sound fund.
For more details on the campaign contact firstname.lastname@example.org
See CPA minutes here
The comments posted do not necessarily reflect the views of CNS or any individual staff member. All comments are posted subject to approval by CNS. Read more
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