*File photo
*File photo

The Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Taskforce is pleased with Government’s plan to have environmental assessments done before alternations are made to the channel.

BEST spokesman Stuart Hayward yesterday said he is encouraged the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is leading the list of preparations before a decision is made to change the channel.

“BEST has long upheld the requirement of the UK/BDA Environment Charter that an EIA/EIS be conducted on major projects and/or projects likely to have major environmental impact.

“This project is major and cannot avoid a major intrusion into the marine environment, so an EIA/EIS should be considered an essential and mandatory exercise.

“We commend the government for making an EIA the pre-eminent step in its decisionmaking process for the shipping channels.” Mr Hayward said BEST has a “high degree of confidence” in the appointment of Bermuda Environmental Consultants to conduct the EIA.

“BEC have impressed us with their conscientious approach to environmental assessments. In our experience, their work has been thorough, judicious and most importantly reliable.

“This does not mean that we will automatically be in full acceptance of their conclusions.

However, their lead-off moves of seeking public input and meeting with stakeholders are encouraging.” Mr Hayward said his organisation maintains a degree of caution that the exercise should be limited to:

• dredging and widening of the North Channel with some removal of coal reefs

• extensive sand dredging to the South Channel

• realignments and improvements to the South Channel by extensive sand dredging.

All three options would involve dredging within the narrows off St George’s.

“We must be careful of prejudicing the outcome of an assessment by imposing pre-ordained selections.

“We note that a fourth and legitimate option should be ‘none of the above’.

“BEST is not at this time favouring any of the options proposed so far. However, a proper EIA should examine all alternatives.

“In the same way that we have, until recently at least, prohibited the importation of oversized vehicles for our roads, we need to be prepared to view some oversized cruise ships as being too big for Bermuda.

“Sometimes the penalties outweigh all the claimed benefits, and we need to know that.

“Retaining the status quo is a legitimate option that indeed ‘mirrors best practice’, and should not be excluded from examination.”