JIS News

Story Highlights

  • The Environmental Management Scoping Study has concluded the area is not exclusively an environmental conservatory.
  • The study identified three areas zoned as fish sanctuaries.
  • The Scoping Study has recommended that a plan of institutional strengthening of the Protected Area Trust be developed.

The House of Representatives was updated on October 29, on the major findings of a preliminary study done on the Portland Bight Protected Area (PBPA), in which the Goat Islands, the preferred site for the development of a major transshipment port in the proposed global logistics hub, are located.

Minister of Transport, Works and Housing, Dr. the Hon. Omar Davies, revealed that the Environmental Management Scoping Study has, among other things, concluded that the Portland Bight and Ridge was declared a protected area in 1999 under the Natural Resources Conservation Authority Act. However, the area is not exclusively an environmental conservatory and is intended to facilitate multiple activities in a sustainable manner.

The study identified three areas zoned as fish sanctuaries, Three Bays, Galleon Harbour and Salt Harbour. However, it noted that the PBPA is in a degraded condition as a result of dynamiting and over fishing and as a result, the fishermen make their catch from the Pedro Cays.

“The only sanctuary likely to be impacted by the proposed project is Galleon Bay, which is experiencing naturally degraded performance,” Dr. Davies said.

The study suggests that strategies to address the potential environmental impacts and to possible enhance the existing environmental condition could include the creation of an alternative fish sanctuary, relocation and replanting of disturbed areas of mangrove and sea grass and the development of a habitat within the PBPA for the species that may need to be relocated.

Dr. Davies also revealed that the study recommended that the project development phase to design these and other compensatory strategies, should commence concurrently with the development of the project, to facilitate environment policy and regulatory compliance between the proposed infrastructure development and environmental conservation.

“The Scoping Study has recommended that a plan of institutional strengthening of the Protected Area Trust be developed. This plan would aim at improving the management of the natural resources of the declared protected areas of the PBPA. This is expected to be an important feature of the efforts to improve the sustainable development of this multi-use park,” the Minister said.

Having presented the project’s findings, Dr. Davies said several steps will be taken before a final recommendation is made to Cabinet. “The Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ) will continue liaising with China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC), to clarify the details of the project, to define the stages in which the project will be implemented and the phases of construction, including particulars of the areas to be affected during each phase,” he informed.

Dr. Davies noted that when the essential details that are to be provided, are taken into consideration, “a Framework Agreement is expected to be finalized before the expiration of the amended Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) at the end of April 2014.”

The Minister informed that during the negotiation of the Framework Agreement, issues identified in the environmental scoping will be addressed in the preliminary designs. The Framework Agreement will be presented to Cabinet after its completion.

“Assuming that the project meets with the approval of Cabinet, it will be submitted to the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) for the determination of the Terms of Reference of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA),” the Minister said.

The EIA will be guided by the findings of the Scope Study, which was conducted by Conrad Douglas and Associates. It was commissioned by the PAJ to identify the legal and regulatory environment, the natural heritage resources, the industrial and commercial interest and the principal bio-physical and socio-cultural characteristics of  the Portland Bight Protected Area.

The Minister noted that a summary of the key points of the Environmental Management Scoping Study will be available on the PAJ website www.portjam.com. The PAJ is also to meet with the environmental groups to discuss the full report. “Thereafter, the full information will be available to the wider public,” Dr. Davies said.