The Crooked Tree causeway has been featured on this newscast many times over the years - and that's because it often floods in the rainy season. The causeway is a manmade structure - about three and a half miles long, which spans the Crooked Tree Lagoon - and is the main means of transport for the one thousand or so residents of the village. But when floodwaters roll down from the north, they empty out into that lagoon, cutting off the main means of transport, and raising waters as much as three to five feet above the causeway. It's a chronic headache that's become a painful way of life…but, a long term solution is on the way.

That's contained in the promise of a feasibility study for the final design and upgrading of the Causeway to paved standard. It was signed at the Ministry of Works Office in Belmopan today. We spoke to Works Minister Rene Montero about the plan as well as a few grateful crooked Tree residents.

Hon. Rene Montero, Minister of Works
"Today we witnessed the signing of the consultancy for the design of the Crooked Tree causeway. The signing is between the Government of Belize and the Caribbean Civil Groups Limited for a total of $750,186.76. The consultancy period is or 8 months and immediately after we finish the design we intend to go into the construction phase."

Hon. Edmond Castro, Area Representative
"We have been fighting for this for some time. I think in excess of maybe 10 years and as the Area Representative I know exactly how difficult it is for the residence of Crooked Tree to commute especially in the November/December months normally when we have the flooding."

Rudolph Crawford, Crooked Tree Resident
"I am more than happy to find out that we are going into that, because it is something that I work along with the Minister a lot of times and I try my best. Sometimes we have a lot of rains and it cause a lot of trouble to get the children to school and stuff like that and I have to take responsibility sometime and try to get people to come in and assist us."

Louise Crawford, Crooked Tree Resident
"When I was in high school the road was bad. Not even the Land Rover which was the strongest vehicle could have crossed that road and I remember walking from Sandhill to Crooked Tree and didn't reach the village. I had to stay and yelled for the boat to come and meet us. So I know what the struggle is for the kids. I know when the high water the kids use to go to school, carry their sneakers and their socks in the hands. Their bag would get wet with their school books. So this road will be a major improvement."

The contract is for three hundred and seventy five thousand US dollars. As you heard Montero say this 8 month contract that was signed today only covers the design. The construction will start after the 8 month period. Another contract will be drafted and signed for the construction phase.

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Finally, Improvements Coming for Crooked Tree Road/Causeway

The government will be spending in the range of three quarters of a million dollars for a feasibility study and design to improve the Crooked Tree Road. The contract was awarded to the Caribbean Civil Group Limited of Nassau, Bahamas. When completed, it is expected that the stretch of four miles of road will bring significant improvement to the lives of the villagers who have been facing challenges with the current causeway. News Five’s Duane Moody reports.

Duane Moody, Reporting

U.S. three hundred and seventy-five thousand ninety-two dollars and eighteen cents or over three-quarters of a million Belize dollars ..that’s  what the Government with technical assistance from the Caribbean Development Bank, will pay for a feasibility study and final design for the upgrading of just under four miles of the Crooked Tree Road and Causeway. The money is not for construction of the stretch, but to ensure that the upgrade is up to standard.

Rene Montero, Minister of Works

“Today represents another milestone in our aggressive road infrastructure development agenda in Belize. In 2013, the Government of Belize commenced the development of a national climate resilient assessment plan which included an assessment of the road network based on the socio-economic importance and flood risk. The assessment ranked the relevant importance of specific links in the transportation network and their connectivity to the socio-economic activities. It also assess connectivity during emergency, evacuations and relief services provision support in the movement of freight and access to social vulnerable populations.”

The project is being undertaken by the Caribbean Civil Group Limited of Nassau, Bahamas. The scope of services will look at climate vulnerability assessment, hydraulic, and flood risk modeling as well as a community vulnerability assessment, an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment and the preliminary and final detailed designs of the Crooked Tree Road and Causeway.

Ray McKenzie, Project Director, Caribbean Civil Group Ltd.

“The full team will be mobilized here the week of the twenty-second. Obviously, a part of that team includes a very established local consultancy, Young’s Engineering Consultant. We are very pleased to have them as a part of the team. So we are quite keen to providing the service and the level of a successful project in partnership with the Ministry of Works.”

For years, residents have been clamoring for the rehabilitation and permanent fix to the Crooked Tree causeway, which would flood annually during the hurricane season; often times, cutting off access to the protected area. The road, when completed, will provide much relief for residents and is expected to improve transportation and economic benefits for the village. Several residents also attended the contract signing ceremony today in Belmopan.

Rudolph Crawford, Crooked Tree Resident

“It is something that I work along with the ministers a lot of time and I try my best. Sometimes we have a lot of rain and it causes a lot of trouble to get the children to school and stuff like that. And sometimes I got to take the responsibility to try to get people to come in and assist us.”

Louise Crawford, Crooked Tree Resident

“When I was in high school, the road was bad; not even the Land Rover which was the strongest vehicle, could have crossed that road. And I remember walking from Sand Hill to Crooked Tree and didn’t even reach the village. I had to stay and yell for the boat to come and meet us. So I know that the struggle is for the kids.”

Edmond Castro, Area Rep., Belize Rural North

“This has been a dream come true for the people and Crooked Tree and myself. In the past, during the flooding conditions, we even lost one life because they can’t commute back and forth. The level of the water, costing the government and the people of Belize boating for gas; man power by the B.D.F., by the Coastguard; it was really inconvenient for the people in that part of my constituency. So I am grateful and thankful and I know that as soon as the design phase is complete, we will move swiftly into the construction aspect of this causeway.”

It is anticipated that the study will commence by January twenty-second, 2018, and expected to be completed within eight months thereafter. Duane Moody for News Five.

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