No THA approval for marina project: ‘Stop this madness’

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

FIie photo: Chief Secretary Farley Augustine.

THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine has distanced the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) from a marina project by the National Infrastructure Development Company Ltd (Nidco).

On Monday, Nidco posted on Facebook that in collaboration with the Ministry of Works and Transport (MOWT), it has applied for a Certificate of Environmental Clearance (CEC) for the establishment of a marina and related marina facilities at Friendship Estate in Canaan, Tobago. The project will include a water park, a small hotel (50-60 rooms), and a gourmet restaurant.

It noted that the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) has determined that an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is required for the proposed activity in accordance with Rule 5 of the CEC Rules.

A draft Terms of Reference (TOR) was provided as the EMA requires that this draft TOR be circulated to key stakeholders for their comments. People were invited to e-mail their comments to Nidco’s project manager II Devon Rampersad no later than May 23. Further information on the project was requested, however up to press time, no responses were received.

In an immediate response on Facebook, Augustine said he had no information on this project.

“Just to be abundantly clear, we have no idea about this project. No approvals were given by the Executive Council for this project. None of the lands in Friendship that belongs to the THA was vested in NIDCO. Consideration was only given for a roadway to connect the airport.”

He said he has already spoken to the THA’s lawyers, and “all legal actions will be taken to put a stop to this madness. While we want marinas in Tobago, it must be done through and in conjunction with the THA.”

Augustine could not be reached by phone for  further comment.

When contacted, former chief secretary Ancil Dennis said the marina was no new project.

“This marina has been talked about since 2018 and there was in fact and still there is – up to the time I left, there was THA involvement and support for this project.”

Director of the Tobago Marine Safety and Security Services Alvin Douglas, on a Tobago morning show, said the island needs a marina but he has reservations about its proposed location.

“It’s on the Atlantic side, and any professional that works in my field knows that in the rough season that area is pretty tricky to get into. You have to picture, okay, you’re building a marina inside the cove area, yes, it’s sheltered, but if you go about a mile out , there is a huge barrier reef that in rough time presents a tricky situation for marinas, navigation-wise.”

Douglas also said alternative locations should be considered as dredging in the proposed area could affect the corals.

“We have to be real, if you’re going to progress on the island, especially on the coast, you have to give up something. But what does Tobago want to give up for that kind of development? What kind of impact on the environment? Or can we minimise the impact?”

Douglas acknowledged that the marina would boost employment.

“It is an impressive venture, but Tobago would lose before it gains.”

Douglas said he was surprised to hear that the THA had not heard about the project as he was aware of it.

Back in 2018, a Belgian construction engineering company, Jan De Nul, advanced to the second phase of the selection process for the build-own-lease-transfer (BOLT) arrangement for a marina.

According to the then Communications Minister Stuart Young, during a weekly post-Cabinet news conference at the Magdalena Grand Beach and Golf Resort in Lowlands, Cabinet decided, along with then Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles, to go ahead with the proposal for a marina. He said that the Cabinet had decided to invite proposals through Nidco and two proposals were received. He said Cabinet had appointed an evaluation committee chaired by George Bovell III and including members such as Tobagonians David Wong and Lois Leslie.