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Saving Magdalena's beach

Public consultations are part of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) survey process, when parties wish to engage in developmental works. EIA's are only conducted when the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) guided by set rules, ask the developer to commission one. Modification of a shoreline is such an instance.

On Tuesday 9th October Evolving Technologies and Enterprise Development Company Limited (eTeck) hosted its first EIA stakeholder consultation on an upcoming project. In their words; 'to construct a breakwater solution intended create a safe bathing area, which could also protect the shoreline in front the Magdalena Grand Hotel'.

The event started promptly at 4.30pm. Present at the event were eTECK principals, key representatives from the Ministry of Works and Transport, breakwater consultants; Smith Warner International, and the contractor carrying out the EIA; Eco-engineering Ltd.

The first speaker, Jamel Banton (Smith Warner) described the process through which his company arrived at the practicality of using a breakwater bank. He explained beach and wave dynamics for the site gave his professional opinion how the beach will benefit by the installation of breakwaters - less erosion. Mr Banton opined the chances of the breakwater itself surviving were good given the semi-solid substrate, depth and current patterns. He demonstrated this by showing computer models and citing the company's experience doing this kind of work in the region.

The EIA consultant Dr Sammy (Ecoengineering) revealed his own studies along the Magdalena Beach and the near shore. His research, described as a study of nesting records, seawater currents and wind direction concluded that a breakwater will have minimal impact on the 'north beach' but may be instrumental in stressing the turtles which lay on the 'south beach'.

Get the the eTECK presentation.

Dr Sammy after taking his findings to the breakwater consultant and eTeck disclosed the group has suggested the best path to achieve a 'safer , prettier beach ' is; leave things as they are on the section of beach south of the Magdalena main building but construct a wave reduction mechanism on the north beach, limited to only where the property interfaces with the sea.

The speakers from the Ministry of Works and Transport reassured stakeholders that the project will be carried out on time and with minimal discomfort to the general public. It was also revealed the material (andesite rocks) for the breakwater will be sourced from Studley Park (Quarry) and brought across on trucks.

During the question and answer session, the general manager of the quarry, who formed part of the audience, revealed the jetty at Barbados Bay, Studley Park was going 'commercial' by years end. He suggested barges therefore may be an option for the transport of the rocks. The Ministry's representative promised to get in touch with the quarry boss.

Also attending the meeting were; a three members of the Lambeau village community, the head of the Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association, the General Manager of the Magdalena Grand, several and the Environment Tobago volunteers.

Comments to this report

As is the norm with reports generated by ET, opinions are formed and fowarded. Our group believes that the prime objective of eTECK - as the hotel's managing entity and stated as, “to develop a safe bathing area, whilst minimising environmental impacts and protecting the shoreline” will only be partially served. Consider:

The breakwater may dissipate the waves but the resulting sea spray will still prove uncomfortable for restaurant users, and no doubt exacerbate the maintenance regime of the property itself.

If the idea is to turn a profit from Magdalena, this scenario needs to be investigated. Sea spray has forced many changes to business plans for example; Mayaro, Guayagarare and 'Down de Islands'. It was hinted at during the stakeholder meeting that the breakwater, by virtue of stopping the waves 50 m out to sea may help with weed buildup in from of the hotel.

This may not necessarily follow, what with longshore drift and sargassum particulate coming through the breakwater spaces. The chances of things not working out in favor of a breakwater helping the hotel make money in this regard should be taken under advisement since; the busy season is also the rough sea high wind season, so beach use may be minimal even then.

Finally. The hotel may think that the creation of a breakwater may enable a watersports with the resultant benefits that can be derived but. Kite surfers may think twice about sailing near or above the breakwater, small sailboats cannot work in the shallow nor will they be safe on the breakwater's outer banks. ET suggests that after this EIA phase, eTeck undertakes a financial feasibility lest Tobago end up with another expensive project that falls short of delivering.

Potential environmental issues emanating out of this project were limited to nesting consideration for a single species (turtles). If the breakwater is built though, coming out of it there is high possibility additional habitat for the coastal fish kingdom. Which is good.

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