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#471893 - 09/05/13 11:25 AM Stake Bank Project Unveiled
Marty Offline

Bright Future But Could There Be Dark Clouds Ahead?

Tonight, Belize City’s Cruise Ship Future is either brighter than ever – or more clouded than it has been in a while. That’s after Developer Mike Feinstein unveiled his Stake Bank Caye Project today. The project has been in discussion for nearly a decade, but Feinstein says the stars have aligned, and he’s pushing forward to make it happen. Our sources say, there are more than a few hurdles in the way, not least of which is that, unlike Norwegian Cruise Line in the South, Feinstein has no Memorandum of Understanding with Government. But, to hear him tell it, the project – which will be developed 2 miles off Belize City – is too good, too big for Government to resist. 7news was at the press conference, and Jules Vasquez has a full report:..

Jules Vasquez reporting
This morning at the Biltmore Best Western, the Toucan Hall was very full - standing room only, actually for the public unveiling of the Stake Bank Plan. The mix in the crowd was interesting, we saw bankers, lawyers, industry stakeholders and businesspeople wanting to know what the promise of this mega project means for Belize.

First, an introduction: What is commonly called the Stake Bank project is actually two complementary projects. One on the smaller Stake Bank which would be a berthing facility for four cruise ships and a destination complete with duty free, beaches and a theme park. And that would connect via causeway then to North Drowned Caye for a mega development called Ocean View Grand. Feinstein outlined the Stake Bank Proposal:



Mike Feinstein - Developer
"This area is shopping, this is going to be a theme park - the theme actually we're trying to recreate the Blue Hole with the Mayan theme - the rest of it is beaches and bars, restaurants and so on. Also a small marina for bigger yachts and very importantly a crew facility when a ship has an average of 1200 - 1300 crew, I think we're getting presently 7 million dollars a year revenue from the crew - that should increase to about 40 million."

From there we go to the other project component which is is North Drowned Caye, a mega development called Ocean View Grand - that would be connected to State Bank with a 2 and 3 quarter mile causeway t

Mike Feinstein - Developer
"This is North Drowned Caye, here we have the facility which is another destination which is about 10 to 12 acres. A hotel company, a residential area and a duty free shopping area for Belizean; this entire island is accessible to Belizeans."

North Drowned Caye connected to Belize City via a 2 mile causeway and Belizeans - he proposes would be able to come over for duty free shopping.

Mike Feinstein - Developer
"With 350 million dollars being spent in Mexico, Chetumal annually - there doesn't seem to be a plan to keep that money or any of it at home so I think this project is designed to do just about that."

As visualized on the artist's rendering, it is a huge project, the likes of which have never been seen in Belize:

Mike Feinstein - Developer
"What this whole entire project means to the economy of Belize and presently Belize receives 61 million US dollars from Cruise Tourism, 7 million from crew, the number will definitely go up to at least 250 million US dollars and another 40 from the crew. If we can keep 200 million Belize back into the economy here, you're looking at a project that will give back into the economy 700 million Belize dollars a year."

Big money and big talk but today’s understated presentation was perhaps too simplified, because if this all seems so simple, so doable, one has to wonder why it had not been done before:

Mike Feinstein - Developer
"Government interference - that's what it is - I think we're all understanding."

And while that terse response won coos from he audience, it’s not clear where this project stands with Government. Firstly, they have one last environmental hurdle to clear:

Mike Feinstein - Developer
"We have a copy here of a new ACP that was drawn up in August and what is left is a decision has to be made on a monitoring fee and that has not yet been done. I understand that should be done this week and then that document is then ready for signature and I was told that I can quote that."

Jules Vasquez
"Are you in accord with the state or is there any agreement with the state that you can go ahead?"

Mike Feinstein - Developer
"We have a full agreement drafted and Mr. Marshall Eck is here to confirm that - it has been presented to the government already (13 copies) and my understanding is that the government will start dealing that at the next Cabinet meeting on the 14th."

But there is very reliable word that A National Economic Development Committee led by Investment CEO Mike Singh does not approve of the project. Feinstein said, basically, government has to agree:

Mike Feinstein - Developer
"One answer - 700 million dollars a year pumped into the economy, there are a few negatives that's been around but I hope we've cleared that up today."

Reporter
"Job creations?"

Mike Feinstein - Developer
"3,700 permanent jobs, thet trickle down effect is thousands more."

And while it is left to be seen if, on the balance, Government finds that sufficiently persuasive, the fact is Feinstein doesn’t currently have 100 million dollars to invest in this project:

Jules Vasquez
"Have you sourced financing or are you prospecting for financiers?"

Mike Feinstein - Developer
"We have a bridge financing in place to begin now and the complete loan will take about 6 months but we have bridge financing to get started tomorrow."

Jules Vasquez
"As far as I know, you do not have any sanction or any agreement with the state and then the second question arises - that is Norweigan Cruise Line - they are the third largest cruise line in the world and out of the big ones, they are the most elite. How can a homegrown effort, with all due respect and patriotic sentiment, hope to compete with the great Norweigian Cruise Line which is a multinational company?"

Mike Feinstein - Developer
"There's no competition, we have 100 million to do ours and they have 50 million to do theirs."

Michael McFadden - President, MAC Martime Inc, Consultant
"I think you can see where we are going today and what a great advantage it will be to have a project like State Bank - that is in the hands of local developers, local stakeholders and local population - rather than just being an extension of a cruise line business."

But even as the project is being touted as homegrown, Feinstein said some very big fish are interested in swimming up to his island and making way:

Mike Feinstein - Developer
"We have an agreement that is signed by even Carnival as well as Royal Caribbean that they cannot object to the State Bank Project. In fact Royal Caribbean is hoping to be an investor in this project and they have pretty much committed to that."

But even with that backing, Feinstein says there is only one sure fire deal breaker:

Mike Feinstein - Developer
"The Prime Minister is - as said publicly - only Norwegian will be allowed to use that facility, that being the case then I have no problem. But if that changes, the agreement actually reads that they are allowed to bring whatever they want down south - then I will not do this project."

But, according to his consultant, the timing is ripe:

Michael McFadden
"Is the timing right to do a project like this? I should say so and what this accommodates is in the first phase is dedicating four berths to accommodate 4 vessesl of any size as a start plus all the related infrastructure and that will make a quantum change"

A 'quantum change' that FECTAB is completely signed unto. Presdient Tom Greenwood positively gushed:

Tom Greenwood - President, FECTAB
"There is this magnificent project by the Feinstein family - 100 % Belizean project. Were we caught between fires? Of course not, FECTAB is there to do one thing first - and that is to take care of it's members. We sat down with the Feinstein Group and said well let's look at this whole thing and it behooves us to support this project because the industry is evolving. If by 2015, just a year and a half away, if by then we don't have direct berthage and I think you all can support me on this - the cruise lines are out of here."

But what about those FECTAB members who operate cruise tenders?

Tom Greenwood
"Evolution is taking place and within evolution there is pain - there's not only pain, there is loss, something’s are left aside while some things move forward. We were caught in a particular fire there because we've got probably about 17 people involved in tendering. I have said to them, it's time to take your catamarans and fix them up in such a way that 8 or 10 people can sleep aboard and establish a fantastic tour from Belize City to Punta Gorda and back. Wouldn't that be a seller? That's what we're talking about, evolving. All these dozens of Belizeans, doing what they need to do to survive, will they be able to access that island? Resounding Yes was the answer from Mike. Are we going to get a space there? A resounding yes. Is it going to be free? A little hesitance and so I want to ask Mike to endorse our request that the federation members will have access to that island."

Mike Feinstein - Developer
"Absolutely."

Tom Greenwood
"Well, ladies and gentlemen"

And if you didn’t hear it, Feinstein said absolutely, and of course, he would because the project right now is looking for allies because it will likely be opposed by environmentalists since the causeway cuts clear across a marine protected area:

Jose Pepe Garcia - Environmental Consultant
"The environmental impacts were very minimal - it was studied and mitigated against and the other one is the social impact. I think the social impact is very great in this project so I will endorse this project also."


Roque Matus - Project Engineer
"I can't see how some piles in the water will affect these fishes and the marine life. Absolutely no manatee will die from this project, however, if you look at the tendering back and forth - I think that is more dangerous to the manatee than a bridge."

For those not familiar with his record, Feinstein was the developer and founder of the Fort Street Tourism Village which he sold to Royal Caribbean for a rumored 18 million dollars.

We were unable to reach investment CEO Mike Singh who is on leave.

As for the project’s environmental compliance plan – which was reviewed by the National Environmental Assessment Committee yesterday – we are today told that the situation is not as dire as Chief Environmental Officer Martin Allegria put it to us yesterday. NEAC did have issues with an environmental monitoring fee and did oppose what is called “fuel lightering” on the island, but pending those issues, best reports say, it has the environmental green light. The question now is whether it will get the governmental green light. Weeks to come will tell that story.

Channel 7


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#471897 - 09/05/13 11:36 AM Re: Stake Bank Project Unveiled [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Businessman Mike Feinstein Unveils Mega-Million Dollar Tourism Infrastructure Project

Years after it was conceived, the Stake Bank Project has been dusted off and resurrected; it was officially launched today at the Belize Biltmore Plaza as the Ocean View Grand and Stake Bank. It is a mega-million dollar development which according to businessman Mike Feinstein, of the Feinstein Group of Companies, requires an investment of two hundred million dollars which will bring considerable more dividends to the tourism industry. Stake Bank Caye is located two miles southeast of Belize City; the development will also involve Drowned Key. The National Environmental Appraisal Committee met on Tuesday to discuss the Environmental Impact Assessment, but it is not confirmed whether the NEAC gave the green light. Objections had been raised about the construction of a causeway that would potentially disrupt the endangered manatee population inhabiting Swallow Caye Wildlife Sanctuary. But today stakeholders fell in line with the development. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.  

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

Ocean View Grand and Stake Bank, multimillion dollar infrastructure projects to be undertaken by the Feinstein Group, were unveiled today before a captive audience of tourism stakeholders at the Biltmore Hotel.  The proposed development is set to take place on North Drowned Caye, situated just two miles off the coast of Belize City, and a docking facility, to serve as a port of entry, will be built at Stake Bank.  The massive investment to transform the nearby island into a commercial hub has been the brainchild of developer Michael Feinstein for several years and is now on the verge of becoming a reality.

Michael Feinstein, The Feinstein Group

Michael Feinstein

“As far as what this whole entire project means to the economy of Belize and presently Belize receives sixty-one million U.S. dollars from cruise tourism, seven million from crew.  The numbers will definitely go up to at least two hundred and fifty million U.S. dollars and another forty from the crew.  If we can keep two hundred million Belize back into the economy here, you’re looking at a project that will give back into the economy seven hundred million Belize dollars a year.”

Since its conception a few years ago, the idea has been met with opposition from environmentalists, particularly among those whose primary concern are the manatees that inhabit the Swallow Caye Sanctuary, where a causeway will be built to access the destination.

File: June 20th, 2013

Jamal Galvez

Jamal Galvez, Coastal Zone Management

“I was looking at the approach that you guys took to put the causeway through the Swallow Caye Sanctuary and that you have used aerial survey; aerial is just one day. And it just sees the animals in a certain position that one instance. And those three manatees, where those tags were, it doesn’t show the movement of the animal. So it doesn’t tell you if the animal actually goes along the part. I think that you guys need to approach the people at Swallow Caye and ask them about the monitoring of these animals and it is unfortunate that this situation came up after Chocolate died because he had fight for this place for years and years. I think you guys need to talk closely with Swallow Caye in regards to the causeway going through there because it will cause; there is nothing that could affect manatee more than putting a causeway through the only area in Belize they call home.”

In response to that concern, Feinstein draws a comparison with the potential damage caused by vessels trafficking the area to transport visitors to and from the cruise ships.

Michael Feinstein

“If you have a bridge where traffic is using, a bridge always, and pilings always create habitat, habitat creates fish and marine life.  No, absolutely no manatee will die from this project.  However, if you look at all the tendering back and forth I think that is more dangerous to the manatee than the bridge.”

Once completed Ocean View will be accessible to Belizeans.  Tom Greenwood, President of the Federation of Cruise Tourism Associations of Belize, FECTAB, is vocal in his support of the project.

Tom Greenwood, President, FECTAB

Tom Greenwood

“We believe that this project in its entirety is going to be good.  We see the development in the south and that again is berth-age.  We see this as berth-age.  This can take up to four ships and I dare say that with a little extension left and right there, we’re looking at the potential for eight ships but I don’t think that we’re going to go that far, possibly five or six at the most.  Our destinations can only take so much.  Ladies and gentlemen, the federation supports the Feinstein project based on the things I’ve told you and I said it may sound a little selfish but we are a federation, we are looking after ourselves.”

While much is being said about a similar development to be constructed on Harvest Caye in southern Belize, the issue of usage has been raised.  Feinstein says an contract is currently in place with two of the major cruise lines to take advantage of the facility.

Michael Feinstein

“We have an agreement that was signed by even Carnival, as well as Royal Caribbean that they cannot object to the Stake Bank Project.  In fact, Royal Caribbean is hoping to be an investor in this new project and they have pretty much committed to that.”

Whereas a number of investors have expressed interest in funding the hundred million U.S. dollar project, the green light is yet to be given by government.  Feinstein also spoke on the potential impact of the existing agreement between Norwegian Cruise Line and the Government of Belize concerning arrivals at Harvest Caye.

Michael Feinstein

“The prime minister has said publicly that only Norwegian will be allowed to use that facility.  That being the case, I have no problem.  So if, as Mike McFadden had mentioned, we’re gaining back the seven percent on crew here because they’d be able to get off the ships.  But if that changes and the agreement actually reads that they are allowed to bring whatever they want down south then I will not do this project. It has been presented to the government already, twelve, thirteen copies and I believe, my understanding is that the government will start dealing with that at the next Cabinet meeting on the fourteenth.  So, we’re not looking at an MOU, we have the full agreement.”

Channel 5


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#471946 - 09/06/13 12:01 AM Re: Stake Bank Project Unveiled [Re: Marty]
Lan Sluder/Belize First Offline
Is this new version of the Stake Bank causeway a big joke, or what? Surely Feinstein and his pals are kidding?!

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#471957 - 09/06/13 09:06 AM Re: Stake Bank Project Unveiled [Re: Marty]
elbert Offline
This could be good material for the Onion.
_________________________
The Dive Shops Daily Blog
http://scubalessonsbelize.blogspot.com/

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#471965 - 09/06/13 09:43 AM Re: Stake Bank Project Unveiled [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Acting PM Saldivar Says Cabinet Supports Stake Bank

Last night on the news we told you all about the Stake Bank Cruise Tourism Project, and its sister development, the Ocean View Grand On North Drowned Caye. Developer Mike Feinstein says it will cost 100 million dollars, while creating thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity. But from what we’ve heard, Government is not quite convinced – and some at the policy level worry that Stake Bank might just be moving a lot of jobs and economic activity from the Fort Point area of the City to an offshore island that has non taxable EPZ status. That’s the feedback we have gotten, but today acting Prime Minister John Saldivar told us that the project has Cabinet’s support:…

Jules Vasquez
"Does government agree with the State Bank project?"

Hon. John Saldivar - Acting Prime Minister
"We certainly welcome the concept, we welcome the investors that are trying to put this project off the ground but as with everything else - they need to go by the rules and they have to do their EIA's and once they pass through the various processes - then it's a go."

Jules Vasquez
"But then Norwegian has a memorandum of understanding with the Government of Belize - they are working on a contract, which is going to the National Assembly. These State Bank developers do not have an MOU - do they have the sanction of the state? We understand that the Ministry of Trade is looking very critically at the investment and whether it will actually benefit Belize City - being that it's offshore, it's an export processing zone, they want duty free status."

Hon. John Saldivar
"As far as I'm aware - Cabinet is in support of the State Bank Project - not in it's entirety, there are aspects of it in which we have some problems - we have to look at the two causeways that they're looking to build. I believe Cabinet is comfortable with at least one of them - the one that connects to Belize City, but all of those things are up for discussion; I believe that the investor is currently in discussion with the technical people."

Those technical people are expected to meet tomorrow in Belmopan to start reviewing the project and assess its economic viability, and how it fits into the larger development picture.

And this afternoon, another of our news teams was in Placencia for an event where Manuel Heredia Jr., the Minister of Tourism, was the keynote speaker. Before the event started, we asked him about his ministry’s current position on the Feinstein Group’s Stake Bank Proposal. Here’s what he told us:

Hon. Manuel Heredia Jr. - Minister of Tourism
"Cabinet had given a green light to proceed with whatever they needed to do for both NCL and State Bank Project provided that they followed up with all the necessary things with the DOE, Forestry and whatever needs to be done and once it is done they have the green light from Cabinet and from our administration. It hasn't come back to Cabinet from the last time the subcommittee met with Mike Feinstein, so definitely I cannot speak about an MOU but I can guarantee that something has to be in black and white before anything proceeds. There has to be something in writing whereby it will protect the rights of the people that will be employed, who will be the key player over there, we have to make sure we take care of our small people - that they are the ones that will be getting most of the jobs. The technical people that will be coming have limited time so those jobs will be crossed over to our local people - that is the aim of this administration, that whatever happens in the Cruise Industry will have to be something that is in the interest of the smaller people."

And, one more addition to the story is that last night we reported that Trade CEO Mike Singh was opposed to the project – which we had heard from two sources. We could not ask Singh himself because he is on vacation. But he fired off a text to news director Jules Vasquez today refuting our story – saying that what we reported is, quote, “absolutely not the case.”: he says the Stake Bank Project is still being evaluated and will continue to be evaluated in the next couple weeks.

Channel 7


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#472019 - 09/07/13 10:38 AM Re: Stake Bank Project Unveiled [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Cabinet Subcommittee Talks Stake Bank

Since Tuesday, we’ve been reporting on the Stake Bank Project which the Feinstein Group of Companies is trying to get through all the required governmental clearances.

Well today, the Cabinet Subcommittee on investment met in Belmopan for almost 3 hours to consider it. The ministers were updated on the NEAC discussion, which happened earlier in the week, and they also looked at the economic issues arising from the plan.

After the meeting finished, the Chairman of the Subcommittee, Godwin Hulse, spoke with us on the project’s status with Government. Here’s how he explained it:

Hon. Godwin Hulse - Chair, Cabinet Sub-committee
"This is a Cabinet Subcommittee meeting; it's a combination of Cabinet Ministers and the technical people who work on the data. We had the meeting this morning, it's just concluded - it was to look at where we are with the State Bank project - as you know Mr. Mike Feinstein has launched this project - there was a press conference and there's a lot of information. The technical team is been sifting through this and so we made tremendous progress today. Earlier this week - there was the NEAC process where it looked at the environment, as you know I have laid out, with the support of the Cabinet a 5 prong approach to looking at investments and I'll repeat them -

Socially and economically viable and acceptable and legally doable.
Revenue to government
Foreign Exchange to the Country
Creating meaningful jobs
Environmental sustainability and preservation of our natural heritage

Those are all important and are basically the 5 parameters. The environmental portion has been looked at - I understand the ECP is being prepared. I just had a conversation with Mr. Feinstein because with respect to him, I wouldn't do the media and then he hears it on the news, so I just called him to ask him his permission because we still have meet with Mr. Feinstein for a few more data to complete the economic side of the process and then we go to Cabinet."

Daniel Ortiz
"Our indications from the chairman of NEAC was that it was still ongoing, the discussion needed to continue but they hadn't green lit it as yet. Has, as the chair of the sub-committee, can you tell us if NEAC has completed that process and did they sign off on it?"

Hon. Godwin Hulse
"Yes, they've completed the process but they are still preparing the final report and there are a few little things they have to do and that looks fairly positive as I understand it. But remember, that is one component, there are other components and because in Belize we have not developed this process - in the past it was kind of haphazard. We are trying to establish a proper process that every investor understands so there is investor confidence, they know when they come to Belize - what is required. Mr. Alamilla for the environmental side has been pushing certain issues which are absolutely important. Mr. Heredia from the tourism side with respect to tourism projects, the other minister in respect to culture, I am from the labor side, we're looking at the Human Development side as well because that's also important too so that we can have a comprehensive package that we are satisfied with."

Daniel Ortiz
"At this point, the Feinstein project is all-go from government - is that what you're telling us sir?"

Hon. Godwin Hulse
"No no, that's not what we're saying at all - what we're saying and just so that there isn't any confusion; when a project comes to government - they say okay in concept this is good, Feinstein project has that. Then we look at all the aspects, it has to meet these criteria - they're saying the environmental aspects look good - now we are finalizing the economic aspects to see how good that looks; within the parameters as I said - that is still to be finalized, there's bits and pieces of information outstanding there. When we get that and that looks good then we are pretty good."

We must stress that even though the Cabinet Subcommittee has looked favourably on the Stake Bank Project so far, the project isn’t completely cleared.

Channel 7


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#472354 - 09/12/13 11:18 AM Re: Stake Bank Project Unveiled [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Two environmental concerns found in Stake Bank Project

The Stake Bank Project seems just about set to go, but information from those in charge of the environmental checks and balances has still not been forthcoming. On Tuesday, September third, the National Environmental Appraisal Committee met in a prolonged session at the Belize Biltmore Plaza in Belize City. On the agenda was the two hundred million dollar tourism project proposed by the Feinstein Group of Companies. The thirteen-member NEAC is mandated to examine proposed projects and proffer a green light, red light, or a request for information or clarification. Best information reaching News Five is that at the end of last Tuesday’s session there was no decision taken and we have confirmed that the members of the committee were not asked to vote on the project. A credible source today told our newsroom that coming out of the day-long discussion and debate were two main concerns – one, the fuel lighters which the developer is proposing. In the project plan, those ships will moor just off the destination and refuel cruise ships. Another concern, the big one in from environmental quarters, is the causeway which passes through the Swallow Caye Wildlife Sanctuary. That sanctuary provides a natural habitat for manatees, which are an endangered species. Our source told us that the meeting ended with those concerns on the table, and since then there has been no word from Chief Environmental Officer Martin Alegria or the Department of Environment. In an interview last week, Alegria told News Five that if NEAC approves the project, the next step would be an Environmental Compliance Plan. To our knowledge, no such approval has been given by the committee, which our source says has had no additional communication from Alegria. Interestingly enough, late last week, Minister Godwin Hulse confirmed that as far as he is aware, the Department of the Environment is preparing the Environmental Compliance Plan. So for all intents and purposes, with or without the full compliance and consent of NEAC, the Stake Bank Project has apparently gotten a green light from the D.O.E. News Five has tried repeatedly today to get comment from Chief Environmental Officer Martin Alegria, but our attempts have been futile.

Channel 5


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#472518 - 09/14/13 11:55 AM Re: Stake Bank Project Unveiled [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Stake Bank Cruise Port worries conservationists

The Feinstein Group’s plan to construct a causeway through the Swallow Caye Wildlife Sanctuary poses great risks for the manatees that live in that area, Sea to Shore’s Manatee Research Associate Jamal Galvez said Thursday.

Galvez, while not able to give an exact figure for how many manatees are in the area, said that the causeway, which is significant component of the Stake Bank Cruise Port initiative, threatens to disturb what could effectively be defined as a manatee nursery.

“Many manatees and their calves can be seen around Swallow Caye. The mammal often goes to that place because it’s quiet, calm and relatively safe,” Galvez explained.

Last Wednesday, Civil engineer, Roque Matus, of M&M Engineering, the company which the Feinstein Group has contracted to build the causeway, says the causeway will actually diminish the threats to manatees.

Matus said the causeway would considerably reduce boat traffic in the area, since the port would remove the need for cruise tenders which presently ferry 150 to 200 cruise pasengers at a time from the cruise ships to shore.

This, Matus argued, would improve the manatees’ chances of survival, since many of them have been injured or killed as a result of collisions with fast-moving boats or from cuts from a boat propeller.

He added that the concrete pylons which support the causeway eleven feet above the sea will be entirely benign to manatees and all marine life, since that part of the structure, which will be submerged, will serve as a base.

It is to serve like an artificial reef, for all forms of marine life and vegetation to grow upon, including the sort of vegetation upon which the manatee feeds, Matus said.

Galvez, however, was not convinced. He told Reporter that tenders do not currently traverse that area, so they have not been posing any consistent threat to the manatee population in the sanctuary.

Cruise Ships don’t ‘park’ near Swallow Caye, so there have been no need for those boats to be in that area. This project, however, could potentially bring traffic to that area,” Galvez explained.

He also pointed out that even the construction of the structure itself would disturb the very same “quiet and calm” that had attracted the docile mammal to the caye in the first place.

The action of driving piles into the seabed will create noise and sound travels much faster through the water than through the air. There’s no telling if the manatees will find the underwater noise levels intolerable during the months of construction, he said.

“The noise might cause the mammals to abandon Swallow Caye altogether,” Galvez suggested..

He also underscored the fact that it may pose a threat to the vegetation in the area, which the manatees use as food.

While it may not necessarily be in the immediate vecinity, Galvez also expressed concern about the proposed dredging that would be necessary for the cruise ships to be able to approach the port..

Galvez recalled that there are presently only about 1,000 West Indian manatees in Belize.

The proposed deep-water port for cruise ships at Stake Bank could earn Belize about $700 million per year, the Feinstein Group’s Mike Feinstein explained at a press conference last Wednesday.

The causeway is to stretch from the Stake Bank Port to the North Drowned Caye, where the developer proposes to build a US$89 million resort named Ocean Grand View.

At its closest point, the causeway passes a mile from Swallow Caye.

In the past, pioneer manatee conservationist Lionel “Chocolate” Heredia (R.I.P.), who founded Friends of Swallow Caye, had proposed that a pier be built outside the caye where tour boats might dock.

The tourists could then walk by an elevated walkway through the mangrove to points where they could observe the manatees without need for boats to enter the lagoon. The idea was scrapped when it was considered that the manatees might find the construction of such a jetty too disturbing.

Reef conservationists who have been battling the cause against offshore drilling for oil are equally concerned about the possibility of a fuel spill from the fuel barges which the Stake Bank port proposes to use to refuel cruise ships.

Mike Feinstein says there’s really no cause for alarm as the equipment the port would use would be to international standards, the same as is used to refuel the ships in Miami or anywhere else in the Caribbean.

He said the barges which will be used are double hulled, so even if the outer hull were to be pierced, the inner hull would still contain the fuel cargo against any possibility of a spill.

Similarly, the hose linking the barge to ship is very short, so even if the hose were to rupture, the most that would spill would be about 30 gallons of fuel.

Any project of this size requires an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), which the 13-member National Environmental Assessment Committee (NEAC) reviewed in an all day meeting at the Belize Biltmore Plaza in Belize City last Tuesday, the day before the Feinstein Group announced the project.

Chief Environmental Officer Martin Alegria has been deafeningly silent on how close they are to granting approval. If NEAC approves the project’s EIA, NEAC would then draft an Environmental Compliance Plan, which the company would need to follow.

The Reporter


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#472532 - 09/14/13 01:48 PM Re: Stake Bank Project Unveiled [Re: Marty]
Katie Valk Offline
Roque Matus M&M Engineering was given many of the contracts for the Belize City street paving, which flooded over the past few days. Devastating affect on manatees in the breeding grounds.
_________________________
Belize based travel specialist
www.belize-trips.com
info@belize-trips.com

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#472954 - 09/20/13 11:45 AM Re: Stake Bank Project Unveiled [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Stake Bank Project Gets Environmental Approval; NCL Urges Caution

15 days ago, the National Environmental Appraisal committee met to consider a pair of addenda to the Environmental Impact Assessment for the Cruise Tourist project at Stake Bank Caye and North Drowned Caye. The project received tentative approval pending approval of an environmental monitoring fee and a proposals for fuel transport to one of the cayes.

Well, the news tonight is that the Environmental Compliance Plan was signed today. Developer Mike Feinstein confirmed this to us, which means that his project now has full environmental compliance. We'd say that's a green light, but pending an approasial by Cabinet, it might still be yellow.

Still the environmental clearance alone would seem to put Feinstein ahead of the Harvest Caye Project which is still pending environmental approval. But what does Norwegian Cruise Line think of the much larger Stake Bank project proposed for the Belize district?

Yesterday we spoke the project director for NCL's Harvest Caye investment about a parallel berthing facility in Belize City competing with their plan for the south.

He told us that he was familiar with the Stake Bank Project, and why it could put a strain the Belize City Tourism model:

Hugh Darley
"I've been familiar with that project since the early 2003; my first trip here. We are very familiar with the project. The marketplace can only sustain a certain number and I think the master plan, the sustainable tourism is an important factor in that. Small cities and small destinations have a hard time dealing with large number of people. The reason we made a decision that Harvest Caye only have one ship is we feel like the south and the size of the market, one ship is the capacity that we should use in the south."

Jules Vasquez
"You feel that, that model is a) unsustainable or b) do you feel that the two cannot co-exist. It's either one or the other."

Hugh Darley
"I think it's difficult to understand that without knowing all the details of the project. I think that the market is already experiencing some growing pains and the City ability to accommodate large number of tourism. It may be viable in certain economic models. I am not sure and I don't have the details of that. It's hard to say if it will be viable. I would be concern because the type of product we are trying to sell in Belize is much more village tourism and I am not sure that project falls under that category."

Jules Vasquez
"If I am not mistaken your project which has been criticize for this invasive mass tourism is now criticizing Stake Bank for introducing mass tourism."

Hugh Darley
"I believe they can only accommodate 3 or 4 ships."

Jules Vasquez
"Yes 4."

Hugh Darley
"That's a much different picture than what we are doing and one of the things about understanding tourism is that intimate scale. One of the things that we think Belize has is a product that is very personal. We build in value - what is the take away value is that our guests are going to get the memories that they are going to have. Belize because of its environmental and its ecological historical and cultural - that's a personal transfer - mass tourism. I know that because I've been in mass tourism all my life. It all comes down to the individual experience."

Darley stressed that the Stake Bank project poses no threat to their investment at Harvest Caye.

Channel 7


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