Open Letter to the Residents of Southampton, from residents of Great Guana Cay, Bahamas

Dear Residents of Southampton,

A case study detailing the environmental practices of a Discovery Land Company golf development on Great Guana Cay, an island in the Bahamas, was brought to our attention.  This case study of the Bakers Bay Club, prepared by Nelson, Pope & Voorhis, LLC, is being used to show that Discovery Land Company is a good steward of the environment, and therefore should be trusted to build The Hills golf development.

As residents, homeowners and Great Guana Cay Bahamians, we feel obligated to provide evidence refuting many of the claims made by Nelson, Pope & Voorhis, LLC, and we encourage the residents of Southampton to question whether the inaccuracies in this case study warrant trust on claims being made by the developer about The Hills development.

Coral Reef Pathologist and Immunologist Dr. James M. Cervino, from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and Coral Reef Biologist and Marine Geochemist Dr. Thomas Goreau from the Global Coral Reef Alliance, both volunteered to conduct “pro-bono” health assessments, yearly since 2005. Before initial construction of the development, Dr. James Cervino along with students from Pace and Columbia University conducted health surveys of the reef.  Drs. Cervino and Goreau specifically documented the health of the mangrove forests, (including the root system), turtle grass, and hermatypic reef-building corals surrounding the island slated for the development. They found the reef in good health.  During the early stages of construction they began to notice sedimentation smothering, and severe coral stress. The beds of turtle grasses and mangroves were once homes to shell-fish communities, octopi species, and nursery habitats for Lemon sharks and sea turtles.  These habitats were damaged immediately. Warnings were ignored.

As residents, environmental advocates and scientists, we see no evidence from the case study that Nelson, Pope & Voorhis, LLC visited the site in the Bahamas, and several of the passages appear to be lifted directly from texts written previously by Bakers Bay over the course of the last 10 years.

The case study refers repeatedly to ‘our development’, and ‘our existing projects’; a tell-tale sign that perhaps Nelson, Pope & Voorhis treated this project as a cut-and-paste job, or perhaps that we should question their authorship of the piece. Having spent years studying and living the Bakers Bay environmental issue, we are acutely familiar with the origins of many of the passages in this case study. Seeing them strung together should certainly crumble the integrity of the document.

Additionally, Nelson, Pope & Voorhis, LLC have no staff marine scientists that have any training in marine chemistry, coral biology, marine plant physiology, nutrient dynamics, and the effects of marine pollution on invertebrates and shellfish.

In summary, we believe that:

  • The case study is a compilation of developer marketing materials and does not represent an actual independent or scientific case study.
  • The claim that Bakers Bay is a model of sustainable development is false.
  • The claims about the impacts of the former development are exaggerated.
  • The claims about Bakers Bay as a steward of the local environment and community are misleading and scientifically inadequate.

In Appendix 1 of our letter, we provide specific examples where the case study passages were lifted from other sources.

Claim of Model of Sustainable Development

The Nelson, Pope & Voorhis document claims that Bakers Bay has become,

“A model for sustainable community development, Baker's Bay is now well known as a success of community planning.”  

We are not aware of any genuine accolades received by the Bakers Bay development for sustainability.  In fact, the opposite is true.  Jean-Michel Cousteau, the Sierra Club’s International Coral Working Group, most Bahamian environmental organizations and credible established coral-reef scientists Goreau from the Global Coral Reef Alliance and Cervino, Visiting Scientist from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, have voiced positions contrary to the claims of Discovery Land Company.  If any evidence exists that any credible and qualified source deems Bakers Bay ‘a model for sustainable community development’, please share it.

Misleading Claim of Severe Impacts of Former Development

The Nelson, Pope & Voorhis document claims that the the Disney site, which is the former development on the site had, "severely impacted" the Bakers Bay (a cove in the northwest area of Guana Cay) property, and that Bakers Bay Club represented a “complete reversal” to a development with “environmental sensitivity and social responsibility.”

But this claim is misleading.  In the 1980’s, Disney’s The Big Red Boat used the Bakers’ Bay property as a cruise-ship destination.  The Disney-Premiere operation indeed caused significant damage to the marine environment by building a dredge channel through Bakers Bay.  However, the footprint of the ‘Treasure Island’ destination on the Bakers Bay property itself was tiny in comparison to the footprint of the Bakers Bay golf megadevelopment.  The Treasure Island development was simply a handful of about 3 thatched-roof and wood structures on the Bakers Bay side of the development, taking up no more than about one-eighth of an acre, as well as a dock and a small golf-cart trail cut through native coppice to the Atlantic side of the island.  Many of us on the island have visited this development many times before, during and after development.  

For most of its existence, the Treasure Island development sat in harmless dilapidation.  Although anybody can cite any 1980’s building technique employed in the Disney site as being harmful to the environment, the scale was so small that anybody attempting to compare these thatched shacks to a massive development that ripped out mangroves, terrraformed the land and removed the native coppice is either dishonest or does not have the right facts.

The case study refers to examples of the former development’s environmental impacts with such examples as “a generator room stained with motor oil and diesel fuel”, the existence of “55-gallon drums” and a “Pad-mounted transformer.”  But these are minor, almost silly examples of poor environmental practices.  

Here is the footprint of the former 'Disney Treasure Island' development. Look for the yellow squares representing thatched buildings in the northwest of the image.

Treasure Island in the Bahamas

Now, compare that to the footprint of the Bakers Bay development. Lime green represents the golf course. Red represents housing plots. The marina, in blue, represents lost mangrove habitat. How does this represent better management of land than three thatched buildings?

Bakers Bay Footprint

University of Miami Monitoring Claim

The Nelson, Pope & Voorhis, LLC case study attempts to explain away the lack of environmental monitoring:  

“After several years of environmental monitoring and management by the University of Miami; the developments perseverance through unwarranted legal challenges; the severe economic downturn of 2007 – 2009 and the rebounding years of 2010 - 2012”

In reality, the University of Miami only provided monitoring consulting in 2007 and 2008, for a period of approximately 12 months.  Those monitoring reports are available online.  The cost of monitoring was not substantial, since it was provided as part of a University of Miami class, and, for at least some period, the work was conducted by Earthwatch volunteers. The biologist hired by Bakers Bay is a fish ecologist, with no training in chemical, and biological oceanography, no training in coral health biology, nutrient pollution and its effects on benthic bottom bivalves,  sea-grasses and mangroves and is unable to diagnose the health status of reef building corals.

To blame economic conditions and the concerns of local Bahamians on the decision to end monitoring is not the rationale of an environmentally-friendly golf development.  Discovery Land Company promised, and advertised, the value of their monitoring program, but that monitoring took place for only a short period of time, and well before work on the golf course even began.

In fact, the recommendations submitted by the professor from the University of Miami for coral reef impact mitigation were not followed by the developer. The Bakers Bay Club and Discovery Land Company ignored the warnings from a team of coral reef specialists that have an understanding in Chemical and Biological Oceanography.  Drs. Mike Risk, Goreau and Cervino have made public warnings and recommendations as to how construction development and removal of mangroves will lead to excessive sedimentation that will smother the coral reef and mangrove habitat.

Claim about Current Monitoring is Unsubstantiated

The case study states,

“Our development’s environmental monitoring and management is now overseen by SEV Consulting Group, a Bahamian based environmental company. SEV provides ecological and environmental management and monitoring for our development as well as guide the development in our planning for management of the marina and the ecological preserve.”

According to the University of Miami, SEV Consulting Group is not currently employed by Bakers Bay Club, and locals on Guana Cay are not aware of any ongoing monitoring project at Bakers Bay, and no reports or documentation have surfaced.

Public Consultation Claim

The case study states,

“BBC has and will continue to be committed to a thorough public consultation. An experiment in sustainability for small island developments. Clearly, local residents or Bahamians in general would not appreciate having “experimental” approaches to development of their natural resources.”

This line was lifted from the developer’s EIA, which was written in the year 2004, long before development began.  In fact, consultation with the local community was never transparent; and this lack of consultation was a primary focus of the legal case against Bakers Bay.  In court, the developer admitted to being told by the government not to consult with locals on Great Guana Cay.

The case study then goes on to state that,

“While the overall plan came solely from the developers, they built in numerous opportunities for residents to participate in the design of open spaces and ongoing management of the community.  One of the main ways residents have been involved is the establishment of a foundation to monitor preserved areas, manage the native plant nursery and operate the environmental education center. The foundation will also manage partnerships with the Bahamas National Trust, the College of the Bahamas and other nonprofit organizations and research institutions.”

According to the University of Miami professor cited in this case study, the local resident in charge of community management, Shenique Albury, has not been involved in the project since 2009.  As far as is known by locals on Great Guana Cay, there is no foundation, or at least Bakers Bay has never presented any reports or operated any environmental education center. They did give one donation to the Bahamas National Trust, but never followed through with the promised donation the following year or any years following that.  Additionally, the developer admitted in court that the government told them not to consult with locals from Great Guana Cay, and any suggestions provided by Guana locals were ignored.

The Sierra Club Amicus Curiae from the court case argues for more transparency from Discovery Land Company.  Quoting the EIA, the Sierra Club states:

“The course of development, the results of the monitoring programs and any incidental occurrences will be documented on a regular basis. Information gained and processed will be reported directly to all necessary government agencies and stakeholders. A defined liaison will be identified with this responsibility”

Certainly the residents and landowners of Guana Cay qualify as “stakeholders” in the issue of the quality of their own environment, and as persons to be fully informed of the successes, and failures, of the mitigation measures proposed in the EIA. Yet, they have not received any reports of the results of the monitoring programs, or any documentation of incidental occurrences, as described above. Also, no such reports have been posted on the Great Guana Cay Foundation website, SaveGuanaCay.com, despite the following statement on the website: “This web site presents information on the Bakers Bay Environmental Impact Assessment and the Environmental Management Programme.” The website does contain a copy of the Bakers Bay EIA, but does not contain the EMP, or any monitoring or incidental occurrences reports.

At this juncture, the residents and landowners of Guana Cay deserve accurate and current information so they can be informed not only of any impacts that have occurred from construction activities to date, but also any impacts occurring from ongoing operations at the Development, including operation of the marina. The EIA promised such information, and the Respondents should be required to provide it.

Claim about Little to No Fertilizer is False

The case study refers to,

“the use of Platinum Paspalum, a grass variety requiring little or no fertilizer and more tolerant to brackish and re-use water.”

While it is true that Bakers Bay uses a salt-tolerant grass variety, the claim is misleading in that it suggests that Bakers Bay is using a level of fertilizer adequate for the protection of the coral reef.  Dr. James Cervino has presented an abstract titled Harmful Algal Blooms linked to Golf Course Fertilizers at the Abaco conference during 2012 and 2014. We testified that the so called “salt tolerant nutrient absorbing grass” ability to absorb nitrogen and phosphorous from fertilizers is limited.  They will only absorb a portion of the nitrogen and phosphorous and the remaining liquid travels through the sponge like earth called  that  trickles onto the coral reef where algae begin to grow and smother the corals.   In fact, Bakers Bay uses over 4,000 pounds of fertilizer per acre per year.  Bahamians on Great Guana Cay were particularly worried about the potential impact of fertilizer on the nearby coral reef.  In 2004, they asked coral reef biologist Dr. Michael Risk to assess.

Dr. Risk’s Report states, “It is, however, impossible to grow grass without water, and impossible to grow golf course grass without fertilizer. No matter how well the use of these two is monitored, some will inevitably escape to the sea. The use of organic fertilizers will delay but not halt the nutrient release.”

Dr. Risk reached the overall conclusion that, “Because of the extraordinarily high porosity and permeability of the carbonate sands on the island, any runoff from the golf course will be transmitted rapidly down the length of the island. At the site of the proposed golf course, there are excellent reefs a few 10's of metres from the shore-this is a situation not found in many areas.  Nutrient effects on reefs have been traced for more than 15 km. Runoff from the golf course will likely be a death sentence to the adjacent reefs, and a threat to reefs the length of the Cay”.

Transect field work conducted by Drs. James Cervino and Thomas Goreau of coral reefs from northern Guana Cay near the Baker’s Bay Development and from a control site upstream from it (Fowl Cay) were taken in 2004, 2005,2006, and 2008, before and after the golf course construction began.

These are contrasted with photos of the same sites taken in early 2012 to document changes. Mangrove deforestation during land clearance for development and dredging for a marina caused increases in turbidity down-current from development sites, smothering corals and seagrasses.  Following construction and application of sewage wastes to the golf course, there was a much greater increase in coral diseases and abundance of high nutrient-indicating algae, especially cyanobacteria, at sites down-current from Bakers Bay than at up-current sites.  

Each year since 2005, the construction activities increased and upon return, the rise in coral diseases were evident as well as what appears to be coral tissue blistering from excessive sedimentation that has lead to coral bleaching.  Severe coral tissue infections have been on the rise since the start of this development.  

Additionally, the case study states,

“the course design limits the amount of irrigated turfgrass in favor of non-irrigated native plants.”

However, a satellite view of the golf course shows that the golf course is quite simply, mostly turfgrass.

Turfgrass at Bakers Bay

The case study states that Bakers Bay turf favors native plants. But satellite images of the golf course show mostly just turf.

Claim About Golf Course Grading Slopes is Misleading

The case study states,

“Golf course grading slopes into the islands’ interior into lined man-made wetlands, which act as a natural water filtration system. Drainage water is re-circulated into the irrigation system, as opposed to running off into the ocean.”  

However, Livingston Marshall, a representative for the development, confirmed with Troy Albury of Save Guana Cay Reef that the ponds are indeed not lined and they do not recycle the water. Videos and images of golf holes clearly show the developer did not follow through on recommendations to slope the golf course grades toward man-made wetlands.

The case study states,

“The installation of native vegetation between the golf course and the ocean. These native vegetation buffers are continually maintained in response to ecological needs as well as impacts from storms, hurricanes and other severe weather events.”

However, a satellite view clearly demonstrates that Bakers Bay never followed through on the recommendation to install vegetation between the golf course and the ocean.

Vegetation at Bakers Bay

Satellite images show homes are not required to have native vegetation installed. There is virtually no buffer zone between homes and the beach."

Claims about Independent Research on Algal Growth are False

The case study states,

“Sophisticated scientific techniques would be hard pressed to establish a cause and effect relationship between the BBC golf course and any algal growth on the reefs. These allegations are based purely on observations from over three years ago (January 2012) of normal algal occurrences that follow major hurricanes and provides no specific scientific data from Baker's Bay.”

However, this is misleading. Dr. Tom Goreau and Dr. James Cervino have three years of data showing elevated nutrients in algae near the golf course, and are analyzing a fourth year of data.  This team has presented this data at the Bahamas National Natural History Conference in Nassau.  This presentation is accessible to the public, as there is no need to hide this data.  Why does Bakers Bay not share its data?

Additionally, observations themselves can be compelling.  This video shows algae appearing directly off the golf course at Bakers Bay on greens that appear to slope directly into this area of the ocean, rather than into interior man-made wetlands.


Claims about Sea Turtle Protection are Misleading

The case study states,

“The development has implemented several programs to preserve and protect native plant and animal species throughout the project...The development is preserving more than 6 miles of the natural shore line.”

The suggestion from the case study is that Bakers Bay is actively engaged in efforts to protect sea turtles, which have indeed historically used the beaches of the northwestern end of Great Guana Cay as nesting sites, is misleading.

Sea Turtles at Bakers Bay

The historical beach where sea turtle nesting was most common has been terraformed and gutted. A gazebo has been built directly on the beach.

Bakers Bay rakes the beach daily with a large tractor in order to keep the beach free of seaweed.  They have built a large gazebo on the beach in the area historically associated with sea turtle nesting sites, and they have terraformed the entire north tip of the island by removing most of the dune there.  Add to that the very strong artificial illumination from large, well-lit buildings and homes, known as one of the worst deterrents to nesting turtles, and you have the very opposite of a development concerned with protecting these threatened species.

Nelson, Pope and Voorhis Claim rebutted

Golf carts, fertilizer tractors and beach-scraping tractors are seen using the beaches of Bakers Bay, on both the Sea of Abaco and Atlantic sides regularly, despite the fact that nesting sea turtles use all six miles of Bakers Bay beach area.

Sewage Treatment Claims are Misleading

The case study states,

“The Baker’s Bay sewerage treatment facilities are of the highest quality and technology available and include the treatment and production of effluent water for reuse on the golf course and landscape irrigation.”

According to Troy Albury of Save Guana Cay Reef, there is no sorting of garbage.  The garbage system at Bakers Bay is essentially a transfer station, in which a garbage truck puts garbage in the dumpster and a barge delivers the waste to Marsh Harbour.  The developer promised that construction debris, garden debris, appliances and recycling would be taken care of, however this has not happened.

BEST Monitoring Claim is False

The case study states,

“Several agencies and departments within the Government of The Bahamas, but mainly The Bahamas Environmental Science and Technology Commission are monitoring the development to ensure the promises made in the Heads of Agreement are fulfilled.”

However, the BEST Commission has no capacity to monitor the development, nor does any other government entity.  In fact, the case study is likely referring to reports that the environmental monitoring team supplied to the BEST Commission.  However, these reports were long lists of species and had nothing to do with reporting on monitoring activities, inspections or ensuring that the promises in the Heads of Agreement were kept.

Claim of Professional Environmentalists is Misleading

According to the case study,

“BBC assembled an in-house environmental group of professionals, including marine, ecological and local plant/landscaping specialists to execute the project’s compliance with the HOA at critical stages of the development. This group was further supported by an independent and BBC external Environmental Management Team that included University of Miami academia. These groups submitted regular reports to the BEST Commission and the Government of The Bahamas detailing the periodic environmental status of the BBC project during the pre- and on-going construction periods.

The case study states,

“An environmental consulting entity, SEV Consulting Group, now provides periodic evaluations and monitoring for the development.”  

However, according to the University of Miami, SEV Consulting does not currently work with Bakers Bay, and so this information is misleading and inaccurate.

Then, the case study claims,

“The SEV Environmental Consulting Group led environmental monitoring team issued its first report in 2012 after initial field testing and investigations at Baker’s Bay.”

There is no evidence that such a report actually exists, and there is no evidence that SEV Consulting had any knowledge or capacity to expertly judge or measure the impact of the development on the nearshore marine environment.  

The case study continues,

“BBC is committed to ongoing stewardship by benchmarking and monitoring of coastal resources to assure its development does not compromise the quality of the reef, and actually improves the diversity and quality of the surrounding environment.”  

In reality, no evidence of any monitoring exists, and no report showing as much has been made public.

Public Access Claim is Misleading

The case study refers to,

“Public access to beaches around Baker’s Bay.”  

However, this is misleading because Bakers Bay does not provide road access to the development from the rest of Great Guana Cay, as illustrated in this video:

According to the case study,

“the entire shoreline will remain open to the public.”  

However, all public beaches in the Bahamas are open to the public below the high-tide line.  There is a history of Bakers Bay security guards threatening and intimidating Bahamians using this public beach, and Bakers Bay has apologized publicly for this behavior.

This article published in the Freeport News on Monday, July 24, 2006, explains a typical incident between Bakers Bay and local Bahamians.

Beach Harassment at Bakers Bay

A PDF of the full article is available here.

Additionally, in March 2016, a family was harassed and detained by Bakers Bay security because the family was believed to be paparazzi.

 

The case study continues,

“The developer is funding the creation of a 5-acre public beach park on the Sea of Abaco providing a gazebo, restrooms, a grass sports field and a full size regulation basketball court as well as generally beautifying the landscaping and cleaning up the existing beach. The project is expected to begin the end of 2015, resulting in a significant recreational addition for the residents of Guana Cay as well as the Abacos in general.”

In reality, the developer has always stated that a public beach park is just around the corner.  In fact, according to the Heads of Agreement document between the Bahamian Government and Discovery Land Company, the public access park was to be completed in Stage 1 of development, which was the year 2007.  Only within the last two months has Bakers Bay applied for a permit to construct the park, and only after local Bahamians begged, pleaded and pressured politicians to force Bakers Bay to fulfill their promise.  The Hopetown District Council was forced to threaten Bakers Bay that they would not issue any more permits to build houses only until after this park was built.  Nevertheless, Bakers Bay decided to construct the public park on a separate property from the main Bakers Bay property, directly adjacent to their staff housing area.

Footprint is Dense, Despite the Case Study Claims

According to the case study,

“The vast majority, more than 70%, of the project’s land will remain as open space. The Club’s 33-acre marina will impact little more than 5% of the total land area. Each home-site will be required to preserve over 35% of the area in natural vegetation.”  

What may sound like something good in print is anything but.  Prior to Bakers Bay, the Bakers Bay property was an untouched mix of private and public land that was virtually wild; a literal jewel of international biological significance.  

The Bakers Bay property was one of the last of a very unique barrier-reef coppice and mangrove habitat, rich in rare orchids, nesting seabirds and the perfect environment to fuel a vast barrier coral reef filled with 400 year old brain corals, caverns shimmering with silverside anchovies, and barrier walls adorned with brilliant color.  That coral reef is internationally recognized as one of the best remaining examples of an Elkhorn-Staghorn reef system, a severely threatened habitat across the Caribbean Basin.

Nelson, Pope and Voorhis Claims about Bakers Bay

Even before the homes and buildings began to fill in the spaces, the density of this development was evident. Coral reefs require an absence of nutrients from the nearby land, as well as functioning mangroves, which serve to filter out the land's remaining nutrients, in order to survive. Yet the mangroves were turned into a marina and the wild footprint abandoned.

Native Plant Claim is False

According to the case study,

“The project continues to make use of many native plants by preserving them in the natural environment; and, in some cases, transplanting them for use as community or golf landscaping. The project’s landscaping plan relies almost exclusively on use of native plants throughout the community and golf course. The majority of the plant species throughout the property were catalogued for preservation, transplanted or included as a part of a preservation study.  A native plant nursery has been implemented within the Baker’s Bay community. Adult trees and plants are flagged to salvage and replant elsewhere, with particular attention to naturally rare, threatened and indicator species.”

According to the University of Miami team cited in the case study, the rare orchids that were transplanted during construction were ‘accidentally bulldozed’ with a change in the golf course design.

Additionally, the development is importing exotic plants from Florida and South Florida.  Certainly, photographs of the development appear to show a marked decrease in native plants and an increase in exotic, non-Bahamian species.  Bakers Bay is actively purchasing trees from the yards of Guana Cay residents, for planting at the development.

The idea that rare orchids were transplanted to a greenhouse was well documented in Bakers Bay Club marketing materials. It sounds great on paper, but since when is 'transplanting orchids to a greenhouse' of any ecological value? Especially since those rare orchids have now vanished.

Blue Flag Marina Claim is False and Outdated

The case study states,

“The Baker’s Bay Marina will be among the first in the Bahamas to be certified as a “Blue Flag” operation...The Baker’s Bay marina will be held to the highest cleanliness standard in the industry.”  

However, Bakers Bay was caught falsely claiming Blue Flag Marina status in a number of marketing pieces.  The Blue Flag Group has since condemned the Bakers Bay development for falsely advertising a relationship with the Blue Flag Group.

Case Study 'Key Contacts' Had No Knowledge or Authorization

The case study cites a,

"University of Miami professor and Dean of Science and Technology at the College of the Bahamas a specialist in coral reef fish authored the Baker's Bay environmental assessment."

And a,

"President (of a coral reef group who) holds a doctorate in Biogeochemistry from Harvard and has written and spoken extensively on the topic of coral reefs including those associated with Baker's Bay.

This clearly is meant to show affiliation between the case study contents and the environmental experts cited. In fact, neither experts were aware of this case study, nor had they given permission for their names and contact information to be included in the case study. Furthermore, both experts disagree with the misleading claims made in the case study.

Conclusion

Residents of Great Guana Cay are all too familiar with Discovery Land Company’s preference for marketing themselves as green over actually making the effort to mitigate real environmental problems.  Our experience with Discovery Land Company has been at best, absurd.  Rather than work with us, they have opted to outspend us.  Rather than confront our issues, they have opted to spin a position.  Rather than work with our community, they have co-opted residents with promises and gifts. Pay very close attention to their claims.  Verify, and do not trust them.
  
Just a few months ago, on the north shore of Kauai, Hawaii, a local golf development parted ways with Discovery Land Company.  They figured it out.  In their thinly veiled reasons for ending their relationship with Discovery Land Company, they provided a public statement, “As stewards of Princeville at Hanalei for more than 10 years, The Resort Group takes its role on the North Shore and within the community very seriously...We remain committed to the sustainable, environmentally-focused development of this uniquely beautiful location, and we expect to maintain nearly all of the local employment positions associated with the project.”

APPENDIX 1

Appendix 1
Nelson, Pope & Voohris (NPV) appears to have taken quotes and/or statements made by Livingston Marshall, the Senior Vice President of Environmental and Community Affairs at Baker’s Bay Golf and Ocean Club, from newspaper articles and used them, sometimes word-for-word, in their Case Study. Note nearly all of the following citations from pages 4, 5, 6 and 8 are contained within the Conclusions/Implications section of the Case Study prepared by Nelson, Pope & Voorhis, LLC. Also worth noting is that this case study was prepared for Discovery Land Company, LLC.

Also in the Conclusions/Implications section of the NPV Case Study, pages 5 and 6, are excerpts from a letter dated February 14, 2012, from Michael S. Meldman, Chairman & CEO, Discovery Land Company to an individual concerned with the health of the Guana Cay Reef.

Baker's Bay Case Study Great Guana Cay, Bahamas 
Page 4 

Precedents and Context

The design of Baker’s Bay was largely influenced by earlier concepts and long-standing principles of community design.  Baker’s Bay was planned well before the current interest in environmental stewardship and sustainability.  As a result, it serves as an original and unique form of planned community than is currently popular.

Project Background and History

What started out as a visionary plan combining ecology and sociology eventually became an internationally recognized built example of community design. Regarded by some as a one-of-a-kind community and by others as a model for sustainable community development, Baker's Bay is now well known as a success of community planning.  The Great Guana Cay site had been severely impacted by a previous development, known as the Treasure Island site (see photos at the end of this document). The fact that planners have done a complete reversal to a positive reflects both Baker's Bay significance in the local community and the changing culture of development today.  Baker's Bay was intended as a reflection of the values of these times— environmental sensitivity and social responsibility. 

The BBC project began with an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and an Environmental Management Plan (EMP), thoroughly reviewed and approved by the Government of The Bahamas.  At the inception (2004), and prior to the start of the BBC development, University of Miami scientist and researchers carefully catalogued both land and marine environmental status and features of the almost 600 ± acres of property that comprises Baker's Bay. Potential environmental impacts associated with our development, like any other developments, were identified and their associated mitigation plans outlined and approved by The Bahamian Government.

*Press Release from Baker’s Bay published March 15, 2012 in The Abaconian newspaper:


After several years of  environmental monitoring and management by the University of Miami; the developments perseverance through unwarranted legal challenges; the severe economic downturn of 2007 – 2009 and the rebounding years of 2010 - 2012, our development’s environmental monitoring and management is now overseen by SEV Consulting Group, a Bahamian based environmental company.  SEV provides ecological and environmental management and monitoring for our development as well as guide the development in our planning for management of the marina and the ecological preserve.  SEV is also contributing to important environmental educational materials for our members, guest, and employees at Baker’s Bay.  

Baker's Bay Case Study Great Guana Cay, Bahamas 
Page 5 

Role of Participation / Decision-Making Process

BBC has and will continue to be committed to a thorough public consultation.  An experiment in sustainability for small island developments. Clearly, local residents or Bahamians in general would not appreciate having “experimental” approaches to development of their natural resources.  

While the overall plan came solely from the developers, they built in numerous opportunities for residents to participate in the design of open spaces and ongoing management of the community.  One of the main ways residents have been involved is the establishment of a foundation to monitor preserved areas, manage the native plant nursery and operate the environmental education center. The foundation will also manage partnerships with the Bahamas National Trust, the College of the Bahamas and other nonprofit organizations and research institutions. 

Specific to the golf course, and with significant input from our environmental and design teams, BBC implemented the following features:  
• The use of Platinum Paspalum, a grass variety requiring little or no fertilizer and more tolerant to brackish and re-use water. 
• The course design limits the amount of irrigated turfgrass in favor of non-irrigated native plants. 
• Golf course grading slopes into the islands’ interior into lined man-made wetlands, which act as a natural water filtration system. 
• Drainage water is re-circulated into the irrigation system, as opposed to running off into the ocean.  

• The installation of native vegetation between the golf course and the ocean. These native vegetation buffers are continually maintained in response to ecological needs as well as impacts from storms, hurricanes and other severe weather events. 
• Specific tees and greens in close proximity to the shoreline are lined with a protective mesh to limit runoff.  

By all measures, the BBC golf course has been designed and constructed to operate at the highest standards of environmental protection for modern day golf courses. 

*Press Release from Baker’s Bay published March 15, 2012 in The Abaconian newspaper:



*Quoted by Livingston Marshall Baker’s Bay Senior Vice President of Environmental and Community Affairs published in The Nassau Guardian newspaper on February 2, 2012:


Conclusions/Implications

Development efforts at Baker’s Bay Club ensure protection of the nearby reef and marine systems. The developers of the Baker’s Bay Club are fully aware of the importance of protecting and preserving the reef. The golf course highlights this commitment, both to the reef and overall environment.  

*Press Release from Baker’s Bay published March 15, 2012 in The Abaconian newspaper:


There have been allegations that the coral reefs around Baker’s Bay are dying because of the Baker's Bay golf course. There is no scientific evidence to support that algal growth is caused by Baker’s Bay and even the most sophisticated scientific techniques would be hard pressed to establish a cause and effect relationship between the BBC golf course and any algal growth on

Baker's Bay Case Study Great Guana Cay, Bahamas 
Page 6 

the reefs.  These allegations are based purely on observations from over three years ago (January 2012) of normal algal occurrences that follow major hurricanes and provides no specific scientific data from Baker's Bay. 

Algal growth in the marine environment is typical after major hurricanes and can be caused by a number of other factors.  While run-off can contribute to algal blooms, raw sewage dumped by passing and/or anchored yachts and leisure boats in the Sea of Abaco as well as the hundreds of “cesspits” in the Great Guana Cay Community (Baker’s Bay has a state of the art waste water treatment system) may also be significant nutrient contributors to the Sea of Abaco and algal blooms. The passage of severe weather events like very heavy rain and strong wings (producing rough seas) can also contribute to algal blooms and/or stir up and suspend nutrient rich sediments that contribute to blooms. Partitioning or attributing types of nutrients and their specific sources to any cause of algal blooms, especially in off shore coral reefs, remains one of the greatest scientific challenges in marine and environmental studies.    

Very important for Baker’s Bay and the surrounding marine environment, our pre-golf course construction environmental monitoring data verified that the occurrence of algal blooms along the shallow Sea of Abaco waters off Baker’s Bay is not an uncommon occurrence, especially after severe weather events and hurricanes. These algal blooms are typically highly localized, and persist for a few months. The larger issue of addressing chronic eutrophication comes with years of study to look at variations or expansion of this natural pattern of algal blooms. 

*Quoted by Livingston Marshall Baker’s Bay Senior Vice President of Environmental and Community Affairs published in The Nassau Guardian newspaper on February 2, 2012:


Baker's Bay Case Study Great Guana Cay, Bahamas 
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impacted site, removing abandoned appliances, facilities and equipment from the former island operator.

Environmental oversight and protection Several agencies and departments within the Government of The Bahamas, but mainly The Bahamas Environmental Science and Technology (BEST) Commission are monitoring the development to ensure the promises made in the Heads of Agreement (HOA) are fulfilled. Additionally, BBC assembled an in-house environmental group of professionals, including marine, ecological and local plant/landscaping specialists to execute the project’s compliance with the HOA at critical stages of the development. This group was further supported by an independent and BBC external Environmental Management Team that included University of Miami academia. These groups submitted regular reports to the BEST Commission and the Government of The Bahamas detailing the periodic environmental status of the BBC project during the pre- and on-going construction periods. An environmental consulting entity (SEV Consulting Group) now provides periodic evaluations and monitoring for the development. There have been on-going studies for four (4) years, the focus of which has been “to document the best practices for minimizing the impacts of coastal development on the near shore marine environment”

The SEV Environmental Consulting Group led environmental monitoring team issued its first report in 2012 after initial field testing and investigations at Baker’s Bay. The Consultants also recently completed another round of water quality testing in February 2015.  Their findings do not support any claims that runoff from the Baker’s Bay golf course is harming the nearby coral reefs and marine fauna around Baker’s Bay.   

BBC is committed to ongoing stewardship by benchmarking and monitoring of coastal resources to assure its development does not compromise the quality of the reef, and actually improves the diversity and quality of the surrounding environment. 

*Press Release from Baker’s Bay published March 15, 2012 in The Abaconian newspaper:

Public access to beaches around Baker’s Bay As mentioned above, the entire shoreline will remain open to the public.  Further, the developer is funding the creation of a 5-acre public beach park on the Sea of Abaco providing a gazebo, restrooms, a grass sports field and a full size regulation basketball court as well as generally beautifying the landscaping and cleaning up the existing beach. The project is expected to begin the end of 2015, resulting in a significant recreational addition for the residents of Guana Cay as well as the Abacos in general. 

*Quotes from letter dated February 14, 2012, signed by Michael S. Meldman

Conclusions/Implications

Development efforts at Baker’s Bay Club ensure protection of the nearby reef and marine systems. The developers of the Baker’s Bay Club are fully aware of the importance of protecting and preserving the reef. The golf course highlights this commitment, both to the reef and overall environment.

There have been allegations that the coral reefs around Baker’s Bay are dying because of the Baker's Bay golf course. There is no scientific evidence to support that algal growth is caused by Baker’s Bay and even the most sophisticated scientific techniques would be hard pressed to establish a cause and effect relationship between the BBC golf course and any algal growth on the reefs.  These allegations are based purely on observations from over three years ago (January 2012) of normal algal occurrences that follow major hurricanes and provides no specific scientific data from Baker's Bay.



Algal growth in the marine environment is typical after major hurricanes and can be caused by a number of other factors.  While run-off can contribute to algal blooms, raw sewage dumped by passing and/or anchored yachts and leisure boats in the Sea of Abaco as well as the hundreds of “cesspits” in the Great Guana Cay Community (Baker’s Bay has a state of the art waste water treatment system) may also be significant nutrient contributors to the Sea of Abaco and algal blooms. The passage of severe weather events like very heavy rain and strong wings (producing rough seas) can also contribute to algal blooms and/or stir up and suspend nutrient rich sediments that contribute to blooms. Partitioning or attributing types of nutrients and their specific sources to any cause of algal blooms, especially in off shore coral reefs, remains one of the greatest scientific challenges in marine and environmental studies. 


Appendix 2

The case study states,

“Algal growth in the marine environment is typical after major hurricanes and can be caused by a number of other factors. While run-off can contribute to algal blooms, raw sewage dumped by passing and/or anchored yachts and leisure boats in the Sea of Abaco as well as the hundreds  of “cesspits” in the Great Guana Cay Community (Baker’s Bay has a state of the art waste water treatment system) may also be significant nutrient contributors to the Sea of Abaco and algal blooms. The passage of severe weather events like very heavy rain and strong wings (producing rough seas) can also contribute to algal blooms and/or stir up and suspend nutrient rich sediments that contribute to blooms. Partitioning or attributing types of nutrients and their specific sources to any cause of algal blooms, especially in off shore coral reefs, remains one of the greatest scientific challenges in marine and environmental studies. Very important for Baker’s Bay and the surrounding marine environment, our pre-golf course construction environmental monitoring data verified that the occurrence of algal blooms along the shallow Sea of Abaco waters off Baker’s Bay is not an uncommon occurrence, especially after severe weather events and hurricanes. These algal blooms are typically highly localized, and persist for a few months. The larger issue of addressing chronic eutrophication comes with years of study to look at variations or expansion of this natural pattern of algal blooms.”

Dr. James Cervino of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute reported:

As many coral biologists understand, coral reefs are known to be the most nutrient sensitive ecosystems. Coral reefs can become  "eutrophic", that is, overgrown by weedy algae, at nutrient levels that are so low that they would indicate nutrient starvation in any other ecosystem  (P. Bell,1992, Eutrophication and coral reefs: some examples in the Great Barrier Reef lagoon, Water Research, 26: 553-568; B. Lapointe, & M. Clark, 1992, Nutrient inputs from the watershed and coastal eutrophication in the Florida Keys, Estuaries, 15: 465-476; B. Lapointe, in press, Eutrophication thresholds for macroalgal overgrowth of coral reefs, in K. Thacker (Ed.) Protecting Jamaica's Coral Reefs: Water quality issues).

Avoiding such nutrients from the shore is essential to protecting the corals at the Guana Cay development from being overgrown and killed by weedy algae.  The golf course has become a point source and creates dangerously high levels of nutrients. Any nutrient drainage into this area causes the reefs to deteriorate further. This includes nutrients from development projects involving dredging, which will lead to sediment loading on the surfaces of corals on the north and south side of Guana Cay, as well as from construction of the golf course and excess sewage that is usually accompanied by such projects.  This limestone substrate has acted  as a permeable filter for the nitrogen based nutrients to leach out into the reef thereby feeding the invasive algal species to smother the shellfish, mangrove root systems, turtle grass, and reef building corals.

The dominant macro algae were species indicative of moderate or low nutrients, primarily Dictyota pinnatifida, Laurencia poiteaui, Halimeda sp., Udotea sp,. and Penicillus sp. These were not at invasive levels at this point in time. However,  All cyanobacteria spp.  (blue-green algae) Lyngbya penicilliformis were in low abundance. Nutrient analysis is need at this point in time to establish a baseline of the chemical signatures surrounding this \reef around the proposed development site and  surrounding Guana Cay. Most  corals were in competition with Lyngbya, and all dead corals were overgrown with mixed algal tufts from excessive fertilizer inputs.  High densities of cyanbacteria are indicative of excessive pollution, in particular of phosphorus, and are common near sewage inputs. On shallow and deeper sandy areas the algae were more typical of lower nutrients, primarily Halimeda, Udotea, and Penicillus species.  It is important to note that acceptable water quality standards for coral reefs has been established by Lapointe and Bell, and show that over fertilization by nutrients, not the lack of fishes and sea urchins, are the major reason for the almost complete replacement of corals with weedy algae (Goreau et al. http://globalcoral.org/).  All areas show healthy abundance of seagrasses with low macro-algal overgrowth.

Recent research in the Caribbean and in the Great Barrier Reef of Australia has established the critical levels of nitrogen and phosphorous which must not be exceeded if reefs are to remain healthy without being overgrown by weedy algae (Lapointe et al., 1992, 1993; Bell, 1992). These concentrations are:

1.0 micromoles per litre of nitrogen as nitrate and ammonia
0.1 micromoles per litre of phosphorous as ortho-phosphate and organophosphate.

These values are in the molecular concentration units used by chemists and oceanographers. In the weight units more often used in the wastewater literature these translate into:

Nitrogen: 0.014 ppm N or 0.040 ppm NO3
Phosphorous 0.003 ppm P or 0.007 ppm PO4"