No NRCA decision yet on Negril breakwaters
Petre Williams-Raynor, Contributing Editor
THE PUBLIC will have to wait a bit longer for a Natural Resources Conservation Authority (NRCA) decision on the installation of breakwaters in Negril, which has been the subject of heated debate in recent months.
This, as the National Environmental and Planning Agency (NEPA), for which the NRCA serves as board, has requested additional documents from the National Works Agency (NWA) in a bid to arrive at a recommendation.
"What has happened is that it (the application) has been to the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Review Committee and some additional information requested of the NWA. We are awaiting their response," Ainsley Henry, director of the Applications Management Division at NEPA, told The Gleaner on Tuesday.
He had in August indicated that, all being well, the application would have gone before NEPA's Technical Review Committee (TRC), comprised of entities such as the Water Resources Authority and the Environmental Health Unit, on the first Tuesday in September.
The EIA Review Committee, he explained, is an internal committee at NEPA which does an assessment of the application before it is sent to the TRC for a recommendation.
Once arrived at, the recommendation is made to the 10-member NRCA board for a final decision on whether to approve the application.
Henry would not go into details on the documents requested of the NWA.
"Because we have made a specific request of the clients, I would prefer that they be given an opportunity to respond before we start to discuss that," he said.
However, he did reveal that they expected to have a response this week.
"[Once] they submit, I will need a couple of days to review and having gone through, if I have any questions, then we will have to go back to them — but only if the questions are substantive because we would like to bring it to a close," the applications management boss said.
Meanwhile, he divulged that public comments on the project had poured in and would help to inform NEPA's recommendation.
"We have got comments from several people. We got letters from some members of the Negril community, the Jamaica Environment Trust and private citizens," he said. "All of those comments have been collated, and where scientific questions have been asked or tangible questions asked, we have sought, if we didn't have the information, to get answers on those, and that is part of why we have asked for some clarity from the NWA."
Added Henry: "All of that will determine what the final EIA looks like. Up to now, what the public has is a draft EIA. After all of this, then it is finalised."
There was a public consultation on that draft EIA in Negril on July 29, where the public was invited to, within 30 days, submit their comments.
In addition to the finalised EIA, Henry said a review of "other technical documents, the application forms themselves and a clear determination of what the project is" would cement NEPA's recommendation.
Asked whether an assessment of the applicant's competence formed a part of the decision-making, he said no.
"What we are assessing is not the person, but the project. So the competence of the persons to implement this project would [in this instance] be the purview of the PIOJ (Planning Institute of Jamaica), I guess," he said.
The PIOJ is the designated national implementing entity for the Jamaica Adaptation Fund project — called 'Enhancing the Resilience of the Agriculture Sector and Coastal Areas to Protect Livelihoods and Improve Food Security — of which the installation of the Negril breakwaters forms one component.
The NWA, whose ability to see to the successful installation of the Negril breakwaters has been questioned by community stakeholders, is counted among the national executing entities for the project, which is valued at just under US$10 million.
The breakwaters — measuring some 990 metres — are intended to shore up the Negril coastline. But local stakeholders, chief among them hoteliers and other business interests, are against their installation.
They are lobbying instead for a beach nourishment option, which they insist will be better for the environment, their businesses, and the community over the long term.