This summer, Steve Dodge, a writer who often writes about Abaco, wrote the following about Bakers Bay Club in Southern Boating Magazine, a magazine about yachting in the Southern United States and the Caribbean.
What's new? Bakers Bay Club is again under construction after a lengthy legal and political battle. The principle opposition from a group called Save Guana Cay Reef argued that the golf course fertilizer would kill the reef lying northeast of the cay. They also protested that some crown land was leased to the developers, arguing crown land should only be leasted to Bahamians.
Angelfish photographed on Great Guana Cay reef. Erik Gauger
A judge's decision cleared the path for the developers to resume. We all know that development forever alters natural places, but the developers of Bakers Bay have an environmentally sensitive culture and promise to preserve as much of the area's natural beauty as possible. Instead of killing local trees and plants with bulldozers to build roads, the plants and trees have been dug up and moved to a nursery to be replanted later. Thousands of orchids and bromileads were are also saved while invasive trees and plants have been removed.
The golf course will be planted with paspalum grass, which does not require large amounts of fertilizer and can actually be watered with brackish water if necessary. The entire course is designed to drain inward to a lined retention pond. The greens will be built with lined catch basins and water and fertilizer will be piped to the retention pond where both will be recycled. According to the plan, the entire community will be served with reverse osmosis water and the first sewage treatment system in Abaco. Homeowners will be permitted to clear only 30 percent of their land for the house footprint, and will not be allowed to bring in exotic plants.
One of the biggest departures is that waterfront property owners will not be permitted to build docks; they will use the marina for their boats. The beach will, for the most part, stay the way it is. The marina, which is expected to open in late 2008, will accept transfers for overnight dockage as well as lunch it will have the first pump out station in Abaco. Things are going to change at Bakers Bay- a temporary increase in barge traffic for one thing- but the end result should be the most environmentally sensitive development ever built in Abaco, and preserve a favorite cruising ground.
The article contained errors in logic, and so both both Troy Albury and myself responded to it in letters to Southern Boating:
Letter from Troy Albury to Southern Boating
In your May 2007 issue you cover Abaco. Obviously you have obtained information about the development at Bakers Bay on Guana Cay from the developer. The environmental achievements that you claim for the developers area ll under question. Hundreds of acres of mangroves have been clear cut and filled in for home sites. You also did not mention that they have strayed from their Environmental Impact Assessment in the areas of waster management.
Numerous organizations have spoken out against the project and they will continue to do so. Each and every issue of your magazine covers some location that is deemed beautiful enough to be considered a great place for “boating”. Ironically it seems that you have forgotten that the areas themselves need to be preserved. There are many people who disagree with the developer’s assessment that the resort would be the most environmentally sensitive project ever built in the Abacos. Please visit our website saveguanacayreef.com for the other side of the story.
Troy Albury, President
Letter from Erik Gauger to Southern Boating
There are several factual errors in your article on the Baker’s Bay Golf & Ocean Club and it sounds as though the writer “took the bait” of the developer’s marketing propaganda. These falsehoods have been exposed by the press and in the court room. Contrary to the article in your magazine, legal action continues. Let’s be clear about one thing – Discovery Land Company’s Baker’s Bay megadevelopment is opposed by thousands of coral reef ecologists and scientists. The large imprint of this development, which is adjacent to a coral reef considered by scientists to be among the very best in the Bahamas , is wildly denounced by experts.
The author says that thousands of orchids and bromeliads “were also saved.” This is what visitors are shown. By destroying mangroves but keeping the orchids, Baker’s Bay will destroy the island’s only fish nursery. There are three endangered nesting sea turtles on the island. Eminent sea turtle conservationists and Jean-Michel Cousteau have denounced Baker’s Bay for the danger their plan poses to sea turtles. The author wrote about the golf course being planted with paspalum grass, but he misunderstands the facts and why it is not the magic solution the developers believe it to be.
I have spoken to many paspalum experts, and all of them would disagree with the author. Coral reefs are unique ecosystems in that they require a minimum amount of nutrients in order to survive. While I am in favor of development, no sane person can condone large developments adjacent to such pristine reefs. The boating community is aware of this issue and it is my understanding that the vast majority are against the Baker’s Bay Club because it is dangerous to this crucial environment and it is anathema to the qualities that make boating in the Bahamas a unique, rich experience.
Portland , OR
Steve Dodge responded to Albury and myself in the same issue. I will address the errors he made in his response after all letters to Southern Boating have been published.
Steve Dodge Response to Troy Albury and Erik Gauger
In response to the letters by Troy Albury and Erik Gauger, I wish to say that the views I expressed regarding the Baker’s Bay development on Great Guana Cay were formed after considering the Save Guana Reef position as the claims and plans of the developer. I continue to find the position of the developer more credible. Consider the following:
Baker’s Bay will be the only development in Abaco with a sewage treatment system and will have the only marina pump out station. Everything else in Abaco, as far as I know, utilizes septic systems, which leach into the water.
The density of the development is projected to be 358 unit for each 1.63 acres of land. It should be noted that build out will probably be 15-20 years, and that most of the residential units will be occupied not more than a few months each year.
Land owners may clear about 40 percent of their land for the residence. A coastal buffer setback of at least 50 feet from the beach or tup of the dune is in place and no docks are permitted along the beach. I continue to believe that this development is better that what might have been done – 1,000 half-acre lots with septic tanks and 40-100 docks lining beautiful Baker’s Bay beach. This is not just conjecture – the previous land owner’s master plan had two units/acre and a landing strip.
The highest court in the Bahamas decided in favor of the developer in October 2006. Some people think that an appeal to the Privy Council in London has a chance. As a practial matter, I don’t believe the case has great strength. The developer’s plans were reviewed and changed by the Bahamas Environmental Science and Technology Commission. The developer accepted these changes.
I find some claims in the letters opposing my position difficult to believe, ie. – “thousands of coral reef ecologists and scientists” and “hundreds of acres of mangroves have been clear cut.” I am aware that some reef ecologists oppose thr project; I do not think that thousands have done so. Some mangroves have been destroyed to build the marina, the marine village and some nearby homes – probably 70-80 acres, rather than “hundreds.” And 70 acres of natural mangroves have been put in a preserve monitored by scientists from the University of Miami .
Finally , I am also concerned about the possible adverse environmental impacts of all developments existing and new. I hope existing cesspits on the the outer cays and on Great Abaco are upgraded, and I hope marina pumpout stations become standard. I agree with the letter from Jean-Michel Cousteau and the response of (now) Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham posted on Erik Gauger’s website, and fully support careful monitoring. I would be happy if Baker’s Bay were never developed, but I do not think that is a rational hope. I think the proposed development is better than many alternatives. I believe that Great Guana Cay reef will continue to be one of the most beautiful places in the Bahamas .
In the November 2007, the Sierra Club responded to Steve Dodge with the following letter. The letter was signed by the IVP of the Sierra Club, and the Sierra Club's Coral Working Group team.
Sierra Club Response to Steve Dodge
We are responding to the recent letters regarding the Baker’s Bay Club mega-development on Great Guana Cay in the Northern Bahamas.
The Sierra Club has been following the Baker’s Bay Club development since 2005. The developer asserts this development will set high environmental standards for developments in the Bahamas. This worthy goal, however, is contradicted by the sheer scale of the development planned for Guana Cay. The core issues are whether a mega development of this size is environmentally and culturally appropriate for this slender, lightly populated island; and whether the rights of the affected communities to participate in the land use review and approval processes related to this development were respected. We support the efforts of the Save Guana Cay Reef Association to assert its legal rights related to participation in the approval processes required for this development, and their preference for a smaller scale development which would not include a marina or golf course.
The developer has pledged to follow an Environmental Management Plan including numerous actions to prevent or mitigate the numerous environmental threats identified in the Environmental Impact Analysis, and a monitoring and reporting system to track and report on any adverse events. To our knowledge, however, no such reports have been made public. If the required monitoring is occurring, the reporting has not been shared with those most affected, the residents of Guana Cay.
Michele Perrault, International Vice President, Sierra Club
Dr. Judith Lang, Sierra Club Coral Working Group
Dave Raney, Sierra Club Coral Working Group