Open-trestle pier eliminates need for dredging, developer says
NASSAU, BAHAMAS – While it remains unclear when Disney Cruise Lines will complete its environmental impact assessment (EIA) for its proposed Lighthouse Point project in South Eleuthera, the company maintained yesterday that it will only move forward with the project if it can do so in an “environmentally responsible manner” — a point it said it has made directly to various organizations, which continue to oppose the project.
“From the beginning, we have said we will only move forward with our project at Lighthouse Point if we can do so in an environmentally responsible manner,” Disney said in a statement.
“As we have shared with these organizations directly, our own internal team of animal and conservation experts is working closely with a highly qualified team of Bahamians, and an experienced international firm to develop a comprehensive environmental impact assessment and environmental management plan that align with our company’s deep and longstanding commitment to the environment.
“Once we submit the draft EIA, which is based on more than a year of field work and analysis, it will be reviewed by Government and made available for public consultation.”
Environmentalist and reEarth Co-Founder Sam Duncombe has long said she has no faith in Disney’s proposed plans for Lighthouse Point in South Eleuthera, and remains doubtful about the company’s ability to achieve its plan without disrupting the environmental stability of the area.
In May, five environmental groups raised severe concerns over the adequacy of Disney’s EIA, insisting that they had observed little to no effort to seek input from their organizations and others with environmental expertise and experience at Lighthouse Point.
The government signed a heads of agreement for the $250 million to $400 million project, which stirred heated public debate.
The environmental groups recommended a number of studies be conducted, ranging from fish habitat surveys, geological and sediment surveys, ocean noise pollution studies and socioeconomic and cultural surveys, among numerous others.
A petition launched in early 2018 to stop the development, which has since been closed, received more than 35,500 signatures.
Another petition launched last Friday, entitled “Stop Disney – Last Chance for Lighthouse Point” has raised over 3,500 signatures in the last three days.
Yesterday, Disney said once it submits the draft EIA, which will be based on more than a year of field work and analysis, the government will review the document and make it available to the public.
The company also said it remains committed to developing the less than 20 percent of the property, employing sustainable building practice, including an open-trestle pier that eliminates the need to dredge a ship channel.
It also said it will establish environmental monitoring programs during construction and operation, as well as donate the more than 190 acres of privately-owned land, including the southernmost point, to the government for conservation and public use, among other commitments.
In its statement, Disney said, “Through the Disney Conservation Fund, Disney has provided more than $13 million to marine conservation programs around the globe, including several in The Bahamas, and since 2007 has been directly involved in leading a multi-year initiative to protect and rehabilitate coral reefs in The Bahamas.
“We will continue to work with leading conservation organizations and communities to protect special places in The Bahamas.
“We are focused on maximizing Bahamian involvement in this project to provide the most significant economic impact possible, and therefore, have spent extensive time in Eleuthera and in Nassau over the past few months meeting with a broad range of businesses and organizations who may be able to provide support to the project, even as we continue to work through the EIA.
“Starting this far in advance puts businesses — ranging from construction contractors and engineers to tour operators, suppliers and beyond — in the best possible position to take advantage of the business opportunities this project will create.”
In a June 12, 2019, letter addressed to Duncombe, Disney Vice President, Animals, Science and Environment Dr. Mark Penning said he reviewed Duncombe’s recommendations in detail, but many of the suggestions made do not apply as Disney Cruise Line does not plan to dredge a ship channel.
“We also continue to regularly engage with the BEST commission, other government agencies and members of the scientific community who have studied Lighthouse Point and/or the species we have observed there over the past 18 months.
“We look forward to engaging in public consultation as we move through this process and as directed by the BEST commission.”
Of the remaining suggestions, the vice president said the majority already exist in Disney’s scope and are being addressed.
Penning expressed appreciation and respect for the concerns expressed about the environment at Lighthouse Point, insisting that he shared the same passion for protecting “this special place”
He also expressed confidence in Disney’s ability to move the project forward in a way that protects and sustains the environment, and drive positive results for The Bahamas, particularly Eleuthera.
Penning, who leads over 1,000 professionals who oversee animal care, environmental initiatives and field conservation programs for Disney across the globe, said he has spent his veterinary career of 25 years caring for wildlife and wild places.