The 450-foot Niccolo Machiavelli dredger at work off the coast of Bimini recently. Resorts World Bimini is expanding the scale of the dredging by 300 percent to better accommodate its guests. Photo: Save the Bays
By Candia Dames
Nassau Guardian Managing Editor
NASSAU, Bahamas -- A Bahamas Supreme Court judge on Friday discharged a Privy Council injunction, thereby allowing a controversial dredging project that is part of Resorts World Bimini’s (RWB) major resort development on Bimini to proceed.
The Privy Council in London granted the injunction just over a week ago, stopping the project.
The injunction was granted until such time as Resorts World Bimini, owned by Malaysian conglomerate, The Genting Group, was able to prove to the Bahamian courts that it can “rely” legally upon the permit it has for the dredging.
The resort said last week it had all necessary permits in hand.
Fred Smith, the lawyer for the Bimini Blue Coalition (BBC), which brought the action, said on Friday, “BBC is stunned by the decision (of the Supreme Court), and we are very fearful that dredging will start again immediately.
“We are moving quickly to get before the Court of Appeal, which is set to hear the matter on Monday afternoon, and in the meantime we are trying to get the Supreme Court to issue a conservatory stay order so that destruction by dredging does not occur until we have a chance to have our appeal heard.”
BBC is a local group concerned about the impact of the dredging on the sensitive marine environment surrounding the dredge site.
According to Smith, the judge also ordered that BBC pay all of the costs of the government and the developers both in the Privy Council and in the Supreme Court in these last hearings.
RWB said it was pleased with the ruling and will resume dredging operations immediately “resulting in many Biminites immediately getting back to work”.
“The people of Bimini know that Resorts World Bimini is an enormously positive development for the economy and ethos of the island, and we are hopeful that outside special interests will finally cease their litigious efforts to stand in the way of a project that the local people so clearly want.
“We now look forward to completing the construction of the cruise pier expeditiously so that we can open the full destination resort, and continue to provide many jobs and opportunities for Biminites.”
But Smith said the coalition has every intention of continuing litigation.
“A government that respects the rule of law and the judicial process would put a stop to a development until the conclusion of the judicial review, and that would demonstrate to the court that The Bahamas is not a business banana republic,” he said.
“When a matter is before the courts, you should continue until there is nothing to have a decision about.”
Smith said the coalition was awaiting a written ruling detailing Justice Hartman Longley’s reasons for lifting the injunction.
When it approved the injunction last week, the Privy Council said it disagreed with an earlier ruling by the Court of Appeal, which denied an application for an injunction of the work being done by the developers.
RWB has maintained that it is operating in accordance with the law and committed to protecting the environment.
It is carrying out the dredging work in the waters off Bimini as part of its plans to construct a 1,000-foot ferry pier and man-made island that will allow its cruise ship bringing day-trippers from Miami to its resort on the island to dock.
The company, which is building a 350-room hotel on Bimini, scheduled to open later this year, claims the project will bring an economic boost to the island of 1,600 people.
Republished with permission of the Nassau Guardian