Sun | Sep 25, 2016

If NEPA would only unplug its ears

Published:Sunday | January 18, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Jane Issa, Guest Columnist

In response to National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) head Peter Knight's rebuff to my letter regarding the Negril breakwater project, stakeholders feel they have been treated like a collective adversary in this issue:

In fact, we have spent years researching what would be best for Negril in terms of preserving the beach and prefer, therefore, a holistic approach, working with nature as opposed to hard, man-made structures.

Do note the following very important points, several directly challenging Knight's missive:

The environmental impact assessment stated that the breakwater project will take 12-14 months to complete.

A 'licensed' quarry was not the issue; the issue was an environmental one, scarring of the hills.

Who would monitor the entire project from start to finish? NEPA had a tender out for this post in October 2013 and a contract has never been awarded.

The Montego Bay breakwaters have never been maintained and UDC pointed out that they have caused more erosion than they have prevented.

The proposed Negril breakwaters have not been designed by a coastal engineer. The testing done at the University of Delaware was two-dimensional and tested only the structural stability of the breakwaters. It was not three-dimensional testing, so they did not learn whether they would accrete sand or prevent erosion.

Knight referred to the breakwater structure at Rockley Beach, Barbados. This was a nearshore structure designed by Smith Warner and built after beach nourishment had been executed. The Negril breakwaters are not nearshore and in proximity to the reef.

NEPA used a section of the Negril beach to experiment with Shorelock, a product that claims to act as a sand magnet. It is not patented by its manufacturer, nor is there any peer review testing of this product. NEPA spent J$17.1 million and has never shared the results, if any, with the community despite inquiries.

NEPA planted seagrass in Negril. However, this was done during the hurricane season, with 84 per cent of it washed ashore, making this effort an exercise in futility.

Negril stakeholders have read the EIA report on the breakwater project. Our concerns were documented in letters to NEPA, but those letters were not acknowledged.

Beach nourishment is sustainable. Good examples are Cuba and Miami. Miami saw increased tourism after executing beach nourishment, which generated revenue for the city.

Mr Editor, if NEPA had attended the Deltares (Dutch Research Institute) seminar in Negril, it would have learned how much more environmentally friendly soft structural approach is as opposed to hard, man-made structures that do not guarantee sand preservation or accretion.

The sand motor utilises the concept of building with nature, is less expensive, less intrusive and encompasses all the ecosystems affected, i.e., marine life, water quality, etc. The Dutch are the forerunners in the world for coastal protection, as 26 per cent of their country is under sea level. Why are we going backwards instead of forwards?

Deltares does not do this work, so it does not stand to benefit financially if NEPA were to use them.

Last, the economic impact of this project, especially on Negril's vital West End, will be devastating. After the sewage pipe installation project on the West End, it took many years to recover. The resort town simply cannot afford this.

The long and short of this dispute is the profound lack of cooperation from NEPA and associated government agencies.

It is not only the Negril community that stands to lose greatly, but Jamaica on a whole.

Jane Issa is a director of the Negril Chamber of Commerce. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and negrilchamberofcommerce@gmail.com.