Within the next “two (2) to three (3) weeks,” a new study will be conducted on the problematic EC$4.8M Sauteurs Breakwater project by an undisclosed coastal engineering company, said to have conducted preliminary work on the project, which was undertaken by the Keith Mitchell administration in 2017 and has since led to severe coastal degradation displacing homes in the Lower Mt. Craven area, with an estimated loss of 12 -20 feet of land in some areas.
This was disclosed by Infrastructure Minister, Senator Norland Cox, who withheld the identity of the company approached by government to conduct the much-needed assessment.
Speaking at Tuesday’s post-Cabinet media brief in St. George’s, Minister Cox said, “we have engaged a coastal engineering company who will come in very soon, hopefully within the next two to three weeks to conduct a study…”
“The study will take approximately three (3) months to complete and thereafter we expect to implement work in terms of a final response to that coastal erosion (but) most importantly we are advancing, looking at doing some remedial work to stay whatever degradation that is taking place currently,” he told reporters.
The breakwater project saw the erection of a 1500 foot long stone barrier that stretches from the shore just under the Sauteurs Catholic Church or Leapers Hill, moving out to the sea onto the old Sauteurs jetty behind the fish market.
The project was initiated in an effort to diverge rough water from the Atlantic Ocean to protect the coastal zone, however it has led to the creation of unexpected degradation issues further down the coast, almost displacing an entire community.
Minister Cox announced that a request has been made to the Procurement Board “for a no objection for that company to commence work (in the area) soon.”
However, when asked, the Infrastructure Minister declined to disclose the name of the company and the cost of the new study, stating that it would be “unprofessional” of him to do so without receiving a final word from the Procurement Board.
“I promise we will reveal the name of the company as soon as those contractual arrangements conclude and the amount but as it stands right now from a professional standpoint, I would ask that you allow us not to disclose that at this point in time just in case that for some reason, procurement choose not to go ahead with our recommendation – it would be unprofessional for us to disclose those details at this time,” he remarked.
The minister explained that government “requested the no objection for the company to proceed “because of the emergency situation in terms of the coastal area.
“It’s a company who had done some preliminary work on that area and so they were far advanced…and so because it’s a sole source (purchase) request and it’s for emergency purposes, we have to get procurement to sign off on that, do the due diligence and to give the okay for us to proceed,” he remarked.
Minister Cox also spoke of plans to undertake remedial work in the form of a barrier system in the area.
“We are going to do some remedial work as a kind of stop lock measure while we conduct the study to do a permanent fix,” he said.
The Keith Mitchell government has also approved EC$125,000 to assist families whose homes are being significantly threatened by coastal degradation issues resulting from the Sauteurs Breakwater Project in St. Patrick.
In an exclusive interview with THE NEW TODAY last week Wednesday, Minister Cox revealed that the monies were approved by the Cabinet during last week’s meeting.
He said while “eight families have been identified” for relocation, “five (5) are going to get government support…in the form of EC$25, 000 each, to relocate to land that they have other places,” and the other “three (3) families will be going to the newly opened (70-unit) Chinese-built housing scheme in (the Villa) St. Patrick.”
The Infrastructure Minister told THE NEW TODAY that the Sauteurs Breakwater project is “a priority project for the Ministry,” especially in a situation “where persons homes are basically threatened, causing us to refocus directly to see how we can address that.
“So, we are working on that in terms of quick response,” he said, explaining that “the Ministry of Social Development will be handling that social aspect of things, with the moving of the homes and the families discussions.
“We are also discussing with the Parliamentary reps in the area, just to keep everybody abreast, so they know what is happening and so far, we have had good support and cooperation from the families…it’s something that we are on top of right now,” he added.
The Keith Mitchell government has had a history of being accused of not conducting the necessary environmental impact assessments before undertaking projects along the coast.
Most of the accusations have come from members of the Civil Society organisations and the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), which stated that the ruling New National Party (NNP) administration of PM Mitchell had “rushed into the project to score political points.”
Approximately three weeks ago, Dr. Mitchell told reporters that “there were studies done (prior to the construction of the project) but clearly, from what we have seen there has been some damages and we can’t say the exact reason.”
The Prime Minister indicated that the study will “decide on some of the problems (and) we have had to ensure that it does not in fact create further difficulty for the people in the area,” adding, that “that is what we have to do in any serious situation.”