Mega tourism project on North Drowned Caye: Causeway concern is a major sticking issue!
Friday, 15 December 2006
The Reporter Belize
By Angel Novelo - Staff Reporter
Public consultation at the Princess.
The multimillion dollar tourism project on North Drowned Caye and Stake Bank Caye, which include the construction of a causeway from Belize City to North Drowned Caye, was the subject of a much heated debate this week, particularly over the proposed causeway.
Belizean developer Michael Feinstein has proposed to construct at least three five star hotels, a casino and marina and residential condos on the two islands, but he wants to also construct a four mile causeway that would connect North Drowned Caye with Belize City.
The U.S. $250 million development plan, dubbed the Ocean View Grand Development, also calls for the construction of another causeway that would link the two islands.
Late last month Feinstein began promoting his dream destination through two minute television spots, which feature an artistís impression of what the Drowned Caye development would look like.
In October Feinstein presented an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) study on the North Drowned Caye development to the Department of the Environment (DOE).
In it he gave a brief report on the causeway construction and its impact on the environment.
He told this newspaper that the causeway is a critical component of the proposed development and if he is unable to get approval to construct the causeway, it is likely that his company, Stake Bank Enterprises Limited, would abandon the project.
Engineering experts from the Feinstein team met with some fifty concerned citizens at the Princess Hotel Monday night to discuss the project as part of a public consultation process for the approval of the EIA study on North Drowned Caye.
Those attending Monday nightís public hearing were asking for more information about the causeway.
They also expressed concern about the North Drowned Caye development, especially as it relates to the mangrove in that area.
The mangrove islands form an important buffer zone protecting Belize City from storms and also from ocean surges.
Acting Chief Environmental Officer, Martin Alegria, in an interview with Reporter this week, said not much vital information has been provided about the proposed causeway, which is of major concern to the department.
The department, he said, wants an in-depth geological data study to be conducted on the sea bed to determine if it would be able to withstand such huge structures as contemplated in the development plan.
There is also concern about the height of the causeway, which according to the EIA study, will range from 9 feet to 30 feet above sea level in some areas to allow for bigger vessels to pass.
Feinstein plans to construct the two-lane causeway from the Marine Parade Boulevard on north side Belize City.
It will include a pedestrian walkway.
The North Drowned Caye development, which will involve 515 acres of land, calls for the construction of a 260-room hotel, a casino, a marina and residential units among other amenities.
According to the EIA study, an ocean beach estate on Drowned Caye will take up 95 acres of the island while a marina village will take up 26 acres.
The size of the casino and its conference room is estimated to be 25,000 square feet.
The project concept is for the development of a quiet, isolated community.
The Stake Bank development has already been given export processing zone status, meaning that locals will not be allowed to go on Stake Bank Caye.
Plans call for the construction of a major marina that will be able to dock as many as four cruise ships at any one given time.
Cruiseship passengers will be able to commute to Belize City and places beyond, using the causeways.
Feinstein says the development will bring employment for Belizeans and should boost Belizeís economy.
He is hoping that the project will be completed in two years, once government gives the green light.
Environmentalists have complained however, that some destruction of the mangrove defences on North Drowned Caye has already begun, even without an environmental impact assessment.