BTL FIBER OPTIC SUBMARINE CABLE PROJECT TO AMBERGRIS CAYE
The Government of Belize is committed to improve the standard of living of the people of Belize. To this end tourism development has been earmarked as one of the most promising avenues of growth thus increasing the demand for safe, fast and reliable telecommunication services. As always the more relevant issue is how to steer this growth in a sustainable direction so that it will do the most good for all the local and national stakeholders. The question then becomes whether the approach to the project is sustainable socially, economically and environmentally and if not how could it fulfill these higher principles.
The Belize Telecommunications Limited (BTL) has decided to embark on a venture that will upgrade and improve a hundred fold the service of telecommunications not only to the mainland sector of Belize, but also to the island of San Pedro [See Fig 1.0].
The project entails the installation of a submarine cable from mainland Belize to Ambergris Caye, where it will be incorporated into the network that presently exists on the island [See Fig. 1.0]. This upgrade, by virtue of Fiber Optic Cable (FOC), which is a state of the art tool in telecommunications, will allow for quicker service time and allow easier access and download times on the internet, which in the case of San Pedro, is essential due to its importance to the tourism industry of Belize.
The FOC will run from Maskall to Bomba, and from Bomba to the coastline overhead on the existing Belize Electricity Limited (BEL) poles that presently exist [See Fig 1.2]. The FOC will then proceed underground and via a submarine cable to the island of San Pedro.
Once the submarine cable reaches land on the island, it will be incorporated into the grid via manholes that have already been installed throughout the town.
It must be noted that this project will take place during the dry season, so the there is the minimization of impacts onto the environment, both land and marine. Additionally, work behind Ambergris Caye will only be allowed during the coming in of the tide, which will aid in the transportation of sediment away from the Hol Chan Marine Reserve an up into the Chetumal Bay.
Presently, BTL has a national network that traverses the entire country of Belize. This network allows for the fast and easy access to telecommunications both nationally and internationally.
Additionally, there already exist three developments that will complement the BTL Submarine Cable. These are the BEL Power lines that traverse the same area as will the BTL FOC from Maskall to the coast off Bomba.
The second is the existing submarine power cable that presently runs from the coast off Bomba to the South Beach property on South Ambergris Caye.
The third is the existing underground network that presently exists on the island, and is presently being used by BTL in their grid network for the town of San Pedro.
The proposed project thus entails the installation of FOC from Maskall in the Belize District to San Pedro Town [See Fig 1.0]. This venture will be utilizing the existing infrastructure already in place belonging to BEL, and then incorporating a submarine section and an existing network that already exists.
Utilizing the existing BEL poles to the coast off Bomba, which are a part of the BEL Power II Project, the FOC will run to the coast, thus avoiding the need clear, trench or install any new poles on mainland Belize.
Then the second stage is the laying of a submarine cable from the mainland coast to San Pedro by trenching in the seabed [See Figs. 1.3 and 1.4].
The third stage is then the incorporating of the FOC to the existing grid network for the town of San Pedro.
Due to the different activities that will be taking place, we have decided for the purpose of the EIA to break the activities into Three Stages.
Stage 1 thus comprises of the following:
1. The splicing of the FOC at Maskall and then land it near to the BEL transmission lines that run to Bomba.
2. Attaching the FOC to the poles and running the FOC to Bomba and subsequently to the coastline.
3. Lower the FOC from the poles and then dig a trench, within the buffer zone of the transmission lines (approximately 30ft from the BEL trench), toward the beach.
4. Construct a beach manhole where the underground FOC will be prepared to start the submarine phase of the project.
Stage 2 of the project is the actual trenching of the seabed for the submarine section of the project. At this juncture, due to the difference in the area to be utilized, we have broken this stage into two phases. The first will be from the beach by Bomba to just off the channel that is utilized by the barges that go to the marine behind San Pedro Town, and the second is from the outcrop by the channel to the coast line near the manhole on San Pedro Town.
Phase 1 of Stage 2 thus comprises of the following:
1. The trenching of the first ¼ mile of the seabed utilizing a backhoe on a pontoon due to the depth constraints in the area.
2. The protecting of the cable by utilizing an articulated protection pipe that will provide extra protection to the cable against props or any other threat that may arise from time to time. This could be from exposure of the cable due to a storm or hurricane.
3. The trenching of the seabed to a depth of 3 feet and a width of 1 foot utilizing a jet plough. At the point where the sea lanes (utilized by the BSI Sugar Barges) will be crossed, the cable will then again be protected utilizing the articulated protection pipe to ensure 100% protection of the FOC.
Phase 2 of Stage 2 thus comprises of the following
1. The trenching of the sea bed from the point where the jet plough terminated to the coastline on San Pedro utilizing a backhoe on a pontoon. This is necessary due to the fact that there is bedrock [See Fig. *.*] at very shallow levels below the seabed. This area will thus require a piece of equipment that will break the bedrock, which happens to be very soft slate like limestone. At one point, where the cable will cross the access channel to the Marina behind San Pedro, the cable will be protected utilizing the articulated ******** up to the point that the cable comes up on shore at San Pedro. This is to provide extra protection from vessels utilizing the area, especially in the San Pedro Lagoon.
Stage 3 of the project is the spicing of the FOC unto the existing network that exists on San Pedro.
Stage 3 comprises of the following:
1. Digging of the access area and installing a manhole.
2. Slicing of the submarine FOC unto the San Pedro Grid.
3. Ensuring that the FOC is protected from exit point to manhole
Fig: 1.0: Location Map of Project
Fig 2.0: Transmission lines from Maskall to coast
Fig 3.0: Proposed route of the Submarine Cable
Fig 4.0 Final section of submarine cable, behind San Pedro
We feel that there will be some impacts on the environment of the entire trench corridor, such as turbidity, loss of minimal sea-grass habitat and benthic communities, and the interference with boat traffic.
It is however, felt that due to the fact that the same has been done, and the only adverse effect will be only during the trenching, that the impacts will be short term.
The route shown was chosen due to the fact that the cable needs to be protect, especially behind San Pedro, thus the cable will be buried in bedrock.
When the operation reaches behind the island, activities will only happen during the incoming tide, so as to avoid the sediment plume to affect Hol Chan Marine Reserve.
In respect to heavy metals, which may or may not exist in the fine sediments, we have collected samples and sent them to the U. S. for analysis. This will determine the extent of heavy metals in the area and to possible impact it would have on the area.
This project will benefit the town of San Pedro because it will increase the access to internet, and worldwide communications faster and easier. Real time streaming will then be available resulting in quicker and up to date information. A simple example would be that San Pedranos will be able to see the local news on the day that it was aired, and not the day after.
Considering the increase in tourism for the area, this is a leg up to the community.
Taking this into consideration, we would therefore appreciate if you could look at the information and send us your comments on the project.
1. Do you for-see any major impacts, and what are they?
2. Do you feel the project will benefit the area?
3. Do you think the project will affect the flow of vessels during installation and post installation?
4. Do you feel that San Pedro needs this project?
From Ambergris Caye Citizens for Sustainable Developmenthttp://sites.google.com/site/accsdbze