Posted on November 1, 2023
The owner of Kaibo restaurant and bar on Cayman Kai has applied for permission to dredge sand under and around the property’s two docks in a protected marine reserve.
Part of the larger dock and the entirety of the smaller one are currently unusable because sand has shifted along the shoreline and settled below the structures.
The applicant suggested that dredging 410 cubic yards of sand from 3,693 square feet of Crown-owned, largely manmade beach and seafloor will create better access for boats.
In the Department of Environment’s review of the project proposal, which was published on 27 Oct., it said 742 square feet of seagrass and algae will be destroyed by the dredging.
“Shallow seagrass beds are important habitat for a considerable array of species, in particular juvenile lobster and conch,” the department added.
It recommended Cabinet approve the application only with certain mitigating conditions to protect the environment.
The Cayman Kai peninsula that reaches into North Sound is substantially man-modified, having been created on a spit of mangrove habitat during 1970s land reclamation projects.
Kaibo owner Daniel Petts is seeking permission from Cabinet to excavate sand on the manmade beach adjacent to two parcels of land where his restaurant and bar sits.
He plans to use a long reach excavator and a backhoe loader to dig about five feet deep at the 250-foot-long floating dock to the west and the smaller dock to the east.
The excavated sand will be placed back along the beach profile on both parcels, the project proposal said.
Similar applications for dredging and deposition of sand at the same location off Water Cay Road were recommended for approval in 2006 and 2013.
In its review, the DoE said the site is located in the North Sound Marine Reserve – a protected area under the National Conservation Act.
“Direct environmental impacts will result from the removal of sand, mainly through the direct use of heavy equipment on the active beach profile,” it said.
The department explained that the environmental consequences of dredging have long been documented.
“Poor water quality arising from past dredging projects remains evident in the North Sound,” it said.
The review lists the primary “direct and irreversible” impact of dredging as the absolute physical removal and permanent loss of the ecologically productive bottom substrate.
In addition, the removal of sand will lead to suspension of sediment and increased turbidity (cloudiness), reducing visibility and affecting the health of marine life, it said.
Petts’s proposal will also see 742 square feet of seagrass and algae removed, which provide an important habitat for species including juvenile lobster and conch.
“While only a few inches long or smaller, juvenile lobster settle from the ocean to the safety of the seagrass meadows to hide from predators and hunt for prey,” the department said.
“Juvenile conch also settle from their free floating life stages to spend most of their early life buried among the seagrass roots hiding from predators.”
Marine algae also provides essential habitat and food sources for a variety of marine organisms, including fish, invertebrates and other marine species, the review added.
The DoE recommended mitigation for the destruction of these habitats, such as using silt screens to limit the impact of sediment plumes.
“Further to this, it is important that no heavy equipment or machinery be used in the water, with both the backhoe and long reach excavator to be used from shore,” it added.
The department’s application review also reminded that the beach is manmade and not subject to natural replenishment cycles and coastal processes.
Because of this, it suggested that any sand removed be placed back on the property along the active beach profile.
“Doing so will help maintain natural sediment balance and existing coastal dynamics and help prevent the need for beach re-nourishment from off-site sources,” the review said.
A letter on behalf of Kaibo Yacht Club Condos, which sits to the west of the restaurant, requested that some or all of the sand is placed in front of that property.
“The rationale is that the sand to be removed has eroded from Kaibo Yacht Club Condos and therefore should be returned there,” the review said.
In its conclusion, the DoE recommended Cabinet approve the project and that half the sand be placed in front of Kaibo Yacht Club Condos.
It also suggested that Petts pay a mitigation fee and an administration and monitoring fee, as well as the permit fees.
Coastal works reviews
Any development which is seaward of the mean high-water mark is on Crown land and therefore requires a coastal works Ppermit from Cabinet.
To begin the process, a developer must submit an application form and drawings to the Ministry of Sustainability and Climate Resiliency.
These will then be passed on to the Department of Environment for review under delegated authority of the National Conservation Council.
The department will present its review within three weeks to the ministry which will also be published online on the DoE website.
The ministry will use the review to prepare a paper for caucus and, subsequently, Cabinet which will then make a decision on the application.
The ministry will inform the applicant in a letter whether the application has been approved.