Caribbean News Now!

About Us Contact Us

Countries/Territories

Jump to your country or territory of interest

Advertise with us

Reach our daily visitors from around the Caribbean and throughout the world. Click here for rates and placements.

Contribute

Submit news and opinion for publication

Subscribe

Click here to receive our daily regional news headlines by email.

Archives

Click here to browse our extensive archives going back to 2004

Also, for the convenience of our readers and the online community generally, we have reproduced the complete Caribbean Net News archives from 2004 to 2010 here.

Climate Change Watch

The Caribbean is especially vulnerable to rising sea levels brought about by global warming. Read the latest news and information here...

Follow Caribbean News Now on Twitter
Connect with Caribbean News Now on Linkedin



News from the Caribbean:


Back To Today's News

Bahamas dredging permit grant 'extraordinary', says Privy Council in dismissing appeal
Published on June 18, 2014 Email To Friend    Print Version

bimini_dredging1.jpg
Concerned citizens say the cloud of silt seen trailing away from the mammoth dredger ‘Niccolo Machiavelli’ will settle on Bimini’s pristine coral reefs and suffocate the island’s rich marine ecosystem.

bimini_dredging2.jpg
The dredger at work off the coast of Bimini

By Alison Lowe
Nassau Guardian Business Editor

NASSAU, Bahamas -- A lord justice of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council on Monday described as “completely extraordinary” the Bahamas government’s decision to grant a permit for an “expanded” dredging project to take place off Bimini in the midst of a legal challenge without allowing for input from “known objectors”.

Despite these concerns, which Lord Mance said made the permit on which Resorts World Bimini proceeded “extremely questionable”, the Privy Council determined that it would refuse an application from the Bimini Blue Coalition (BBC) that would have stopped dredging off the coast of Bimini.

The decision was welcomed by Resorts World Bimini, which aims to complete the North Bimini Ferry Terminal project by the end of summer, while an attorney for opponents of the work blamed the Bahamian government for an “appalling” lack of respect for the country’s legal system.

Fred Smith QC, called the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council’s decision “the worst case” scenario for the Bimini Blue Coalition, which has maintained that developers Resorts World Bimini have moved ahead with the controversial dredging without proper approvals.

While the Privy Council has not yet provided its reasons for the decision it reached to dismiss the Bimini Blue Coalition’s application that would have reinstated an injunction on Monday, it came shortly after attorneys for Resorts World Bimini provided evidence to the court that the dredging for which the BBC had sought an injunction was already completed.

This revelation led Lord Neuberger to state: “So we can go home now, can we?”

“If it has stopped, then if we grant the injunction it won’t matter...” said the judge.

In its second turn hearing an application related to the dredging dispute, the Privy Council, The Bahamas’ highest court of appeal, dismissed the BBC’s application in which it had sought to overturn the Court of Appeal’s judgment regarding a decision by Supreme Court Judge Hartman Longley.

Longley had, on May 30, discharged an injunction previously granted by the Privy Council of the dredging by the developer. The injunction had been granted on the basis that Resorts World Bimini and the government had to prove the validity of their dredging permit to the Bahamian courts.

Commenting on the decision of the Privy Council on Monday, Smith suggested that the government had made it difficult for opponents to ascertain the status of permits associated with the process. He said this had made it virtually impossible to challenge the dredging project legally before the majority of the environmental impact had already taken place. In the case of the dredging work, this included impacts to the seabed and surrounding marine environment in Bimini, which is known for its recreational diving and diverse marine life.

“As with Guana Cay, Wilson City power plant and, now, Bimini, by keeping the permitting process secret until work has actually started makes it almost impossible to effectively access the judicial system in time to protect local and environmental rights.”

He said the case shows why The Bahamas “desperately needs an effective Freedom of Information Act”, suggesting that such an act would allow concerned individuals to know what is going on with developments in their communities with enough time to ensure their voices are heard on the matter.

In the case of the North Bimini Ferry Terminal project, the permit for dredging to proceed was not produced by attorneys for Resorts World Bimini until a week after it had started, and opponents were not presented with a formal opportunity to have input on the granting of the permit as is suggested under the law.

Just a week prior, attorneys for the BBC had discovered in court that Resorts World Bimini had applied for an extension of the dredging project to three times its original size.

In court, Lord Hodge suggested that, given the timeframe involved, the government had not “done very much to let interested parties know what they are facing” in relation to the expanded version of the project.

To this, an attorney for the government, identified as “Mr Knox” in court transcripts, said: “My Lord, no, I can accept that they haven’t done very much. My answer to that is that they are not statutorily obliged to.” Knox defended the validity of the permit and the process by which it was granted.

Nonetheless, Lord Mance, referring to the swiftness with which the permit was granted, called it “a rather remarkable thing... a permit that came like manna from heaven”.

Earlier, Ruth Jordan, attorney for the BBC, had said due process had been ignored in the permitting process.

“There has been a political decision taken by the prime minister to support this development, and it’s been pushed through, we say, in secret and effectively on a wink and a nod from the prime minister.

“We say the prime minister clearly doesn’t have the power to overreach public officials and drive through projects without requiring developers to go through the proper channels.”

Resorts World Bimini said of the ruling: “Resorts World Bimini is pleased with the court outcome, which was consistent with our position. We will continue to construct the cruise pier as expeditiously as possible while providing Biminites with jobs and working to complete the full destination project. The pier is scheduled to be completed by the end of the summer with the new marina hotel marked for a late fall opening.”

Smith committed to continuing a judicial review action against the government in relation to the North Bimini Ferry Terminal project, designed to allow the Bimini Superfast Ferry to dock at the island, despite attorneys for the Bimini Blue Coalition in London losing in their bid to have the injunction order reinstated

“Bimini Blue Coalition lives to fight another day and looks forward to its day in court to hopefully prevent future environmental gamesmanship. BBC considers that it has a strong case to continue for judicial review. Although dredging has been completed, that is but a small piece of the development puzzle. The golf course is no doubt next!”

Some local Biminites have objected to the BBC’s legal challenges, claiming that the project has the support of the island as it will bring economic development, while others have expressed concern over a lack of information relating to the project and its impact on the environment, established dive-related tourism and important fisheries.

Republished with permission of the Nassau Guardian
 
Reads: 2101





Click here to receive daily news headlines from Caribbean News Now!



Back...

Comments:

No comments on this topic yet. Be the first one to submit a comment.

Back...

Send us your comments!  

Send us your comments on this article. All fields are required.

For your contribution to reach us, you must (a) provide a valid e-mail address and (b) click on the validation link that will be sent to the e-mail address you provide.  If the address is not valid or you don't click on the validation link, we will never see it!

Your Name:

Your Email:

(Validation required)

Comments:
Enter Code



Please note that, if you are using an AT&T domain email address, e.g. att.net, bellsouth.net, sbcglobal.net, the verification email will likely not be delivered. This is outside of our control and the only remedy seems to be for readers to complain to AT&T





Disclaimer
User comments posted on this website are the sole views and opinions of the comment author and are not representative of Caribbean News Now or its staff. Caribbean News Now accepts no liability and will not be held accountable for user comments.
Caribbean News Now reserves the right to remove, edit or censor any comments. Any content that is considered unsuitable, unlawful or offensive, includes personal details, advertises or promotes products, services or websites or repeats previous comments will not be approved.
Before posting, please refer to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

The Caribbean Writer 2014
Women Entrepreneurs Network of the Caribbean (WENC)


Other Headlines:



Regional Sports: