Ingraham on Bakers Bay

Quoted from website:

"When will the Government explain exactly what approvals have been granted to the Bimini Bay development and how exactly they differ from the last approvals given to the project by the FNM?

The FNM approvals satisfied environmentalists that the mangroves and marine life of Bimini Bay would be protected. They are no longer so satisfied.

In fact, one long time research scientist from the University of Miami has ended his research work in Bimini so disheartened is he by the destruction of mangroves approved by the most recent PLP amendment to Heads of Agreements and building permits granted the developer.

What environmental studies have they conducted at Mayaguana? How will they protect the small colonies of flamingoes and tropic birds that have in recent time been seen nesting in areas being indiscriminately opened for development?

What exactly is proposed for Bakers Bay? Why is it that the Prime Minister's chief advisor on the environment has conveniently been retained as the environmental consultant by the developers of Bakers Bay? Where is the transparency in all this?

This PLP Government is a duplicitous government and they must be put out before they do serious and irreparable damage to The Bahamas."

Ingraham Response to Cousteau Letter
The Abaconian printed a response from Rt. Hon. Hubert Ingraham, who was sent a copy of the letter from Cousteau. Here is the open letter from Ingraham.

The Rt. Hon. Ingraham Responds to Mr. Cousteau

To Mr. Jean-Michel Cousteau

Oceans Futures Society

Dear Mr. Cousteau,

Thank you for your letter of 6 July in which you inform of concerns of some of the members of the Oceans Futures Society, that a resort development at Bakers Bay on Great Guana Cay, may undermine the environmental health of the region.

Many of us in the Bahamas are well acquainted with the research undertaken by your society in support of the marine environment having followed the exploits of your famous father for many years. Hence, we would not discount any representations made by you and your associates with regard to the protection of the marine environment.

The tenor of your letter suggests that you believe that I have a decision-making role on the approvals for the proposed developments at Great Guana Cay. I do not. You should be made aware that though I remain the Member of Parliament for the North Abaco Constituency, I demitted office as Prime Minister of the Bahamas in May 2002 and I am not a member of the present governing body in the Bahamas. (Notes from the Road: Ingraham was sent the letter because he was the leader of the opposition at the time)

I wish, however, to assure you that I and my colleagues in the Free National Movement share your concern that economic development not be permitted to endanger the sustainability of our environment if for no other reason than the overwhelming dependence of our tourism economy is based on a richly diverse and healthy marine and land environment.

The concerns that you have raised, particularly with regard to potentially dangerous consequences of the development of the proposed golf course have been raised by a number of environmental groups in the Bahamas, none more vocal than the association of concerned residents of Great Guana Cay.

I and my colleagues in the Free National Movement have had the opportunity to discuss these concerns with the residents of Great Guana Cay and also with the developers of the Bakers Bay resort.

We have also had the opportunity to have the Environmental Impact Assessment concluded on the proposed development reviewed by an independent environmental engineer.

While I believe the residents, like your members, raise real and valid concerns with certain aspects of the proposed development. I also believe that the developers at Bakers Bay have made and continue to make genuine efforts to address our concerns and to meet our interest in the adoption of the highest possible practices so as to protect the environment.

Mitigating steps being put in place to safeguard the areas environment including the removal of invasive foreign plant and tree life and the cultivation of natives species are commendable, as are efforts to protect and safeguard the Cay's sand dunes, important for the nesting turtles and the adoption of generous building setbacks combined with restrictions to be placed on general land clearing and excavations throughout the development.

Nevertheless, my party continues to hold some reservations with the proposed size of the marina and with the inclusion of the golf course in the development.

We have been encouraged by the decision of the developers to employ internationally endorsed best practices for marina development and operation. We understand that it is proposed that the marina meet and maintain "blue flag" criteria.

We also expect that the developers will honour their undertakings and take such reasonable additional steps required to provide the greatest possible protection against the harmful run-off from the golf course. Whether an acceptable level of assurance will be achieved remains to be seen.

I wish to assure you that your interest and concern to safeguard the marine environment in and around Great Guana Cay are shared by us and that these concerns will be shared with the Government of the Bahamas.

My party will continue to call for and promote the observance of the highest possible environmental standards and practices for all the developments in the Bahamas.

In this vein, I advise that I will provide a copy of your letter addressed to me and my response to the Government of the Bahamas whose agencies and departments are charged with the responsibility for approving and supervising development and monitoring compliance with environmental standards in the construction and operation of all projects in the country.

I thank you for your interest and wish you continued success in your important work.


Hubert A. Ingraham

Letter to Erik of Notes from the Road

In July, 2006, Ingraham wrote me a long letter about Bakers Bay. At the time, he was a candidate. His platform was based in large part on the message being promoted by Save Guana Cay Reef. And...he won. So in this letter, Ingraham puts more blame on the Christie Administration than Discovery Land Company. But I cannot blame him for this: as a candidate for Prime Minister, Ingraham must have good words for foreign developers.

I should point out that Ingraham has made incredible progress in promoting the agenda that the Guana Cay locals and others have brought to national attention. Here is his letter:

The question has been asked, with regard to the development of Baker’s Bay, Great Guana Cay, “Will the FNM favour local and environmental interests over the short term interests of foreign developers?”

A Government led by the Free National Movement will take full account of the environmental, social and economic impact of any and all development projects prior to approval.

The FNM believes that recognition of, and appropriate response to, local concerns during the consideration of a proposed development is critically important. A project which does not enjoy broad community support will not, except in the most exceptional circumstances (such as overriding public or national interest), be approved.

The FNM accepts that foreign investment is absolutely essential to Bahamian economic development. Hence, approval of international investment or development projects that are consistent with good environmental practices and will benefit Bahamians will be welcomed, encouraged and facilitated.

Protection of our environment is not an expediency for the Free National Movement; it is central and at the core of our philosophy as a party. Development projects which are not environmentally sustainable will be rejected by an FNM Government.

With specific regard to the development at Baker’s Bay, Abaco, the FNM believes that the people most impacted by the development, the residents of Great Guana Cay, were not properly kept in the picture as the Government moved to sell or long lease much if not all of the remaining public lands on the cay to the private developers of the Baker’s Bay Resort. This was wrong and unacceptable.

As legitimate concerns were raised by residents concerning possible adverse impacts on their livelihoods as fishermen and tour dive operators should the proposed development damage the off-shore coral reef, the government became secretive; it withheld from the public information contained in the Environmental Impact Assessment conducted on the proposed development. This caused many people to expect the worst from the development.

The veil of secrecy continued as residents of Great Guana Cay sought to learn how their traditional access to beaches and to traditional crabbing areas falling within the proposed development zone would be preserved. Again mistrust was fostered.

Furthermore, residents who had been told by this and previous governments, that they could not obtain ownership of any portion of Treasury or Crown Lands if they did not propose to invest financially in its development, learned that the developers at Baker’s Bay were being granted and/or long-leased lands to be held in their natural state. This naturally fuelled increased distrust among residents.

The FNM has met with residents of Great Guana Cay and their local representatives on a number of occasions, most recently on the cay during May, and also with the developers of Baker’s Bay.

The FNM believes that the concerns of the residents of Great Guana Cay are genuine and not mean-spirited.

The FNM has also found the Baker’s Bay development group to be of the highest quality and the kind of investors who should be made welcome in our country.

The FNM has been especially satisfied by efforts of the developers to engage professional Bahamians skilled in the design and oversight of environmental aspects of the development.

The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was made available to the FNM in May. Since that time the FNM has had the EIA reviewed by a qualified environmental engineer. It is indeed regrettable that this document has not been more widely available to interested parties. Its early release may have gone a long way toward allaying many of the fears of the residents of Great Guana Cay.

Our review of the EIA indicates that steps being taken at the development with regard to native plant and tree protection are commendable. This initiative is being competently led by a Bahamian professional.

Further, the review reveals that designs proposed for the construction and operation of the development’s marina appear to follow recommended best practices for an environment-friendly facility. This would be in keeping with the developer’s expectation to operate a “Blue Flag” marina.

It does appear that some additional mitigating work ought to be undertaken to provide greater comfort with regard to run-off fertilizers and/or insecticides associated with the golf course – a matter which is of the greatest concern to all Bahamians interested in protecting the integrity of the Guana Cay reef.

It is questionable whether a golf course ought to have been approved by the government for this development given that Abaco already hosts two golf courses, one only 5 miles away in Treasure Cay.

As regards land matters, it is for the government to speak early and to speak clearly on what arrangements it has agreed with the developers for the publicly-owned lands on Guana Cay.

Bahamian citizens ought not to be left in the dark as to what public lands have been sold or long-leased to developers, nor should the terms and conditions of those transactions be secret.

Bahamians have every right and expectation that their traditional access to beaches, fishing grounds and crabbing areas will not be taken-away to make way for a development that does not enjoy broad community support.

It is only left to say that the handling of the Baker’s Bay development by the present government has been poor. It is not the way that the FNM conducted business when it led the government and it will not be the manner in which we conduct business when we are returned to office following upon general elections.

A Friend to Environmental Causes

It will be recalled that in office the FNM created the Bahamas Environment, Science and Technology Commission as an agency of oversight and coordination of all environmental matters for the government.

We created the post and appointed the first Bahamas Ambassador for the Environment so as to provide the government generally, but especially the Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers whose portfolios included matters critical to sustaining our environment, with informed advice on a wide range of environmental matters and initiatives nationally and internationally.

We instituted a requirement for the undertaking of Environmental Impact Assessments on all major international investment projects where the potential existed for adverse impact on the environment with a view to determining the viability and/or sustainability of such proposed projects or, alternatively, to identify mitigating steps to be adopted to permit a proposed project to be approved.

We dramatically increased the nation’s capacity for solid waste disposal.

We enacted legislation barring long-line fishing in Bahamian waters and dramatically increased marine and fisheries protected areas. So as to protect the Nassau grouper from over-fishing practices, a closed season was established during the spawning season.

We launched overdue research efforts to conserve our resources. These projects included: land-use studies in New Providence; the development of a National Biodiversity Strategy and a programme for sustainable development; the development of a national database of environmental information; and a national climate change study.

We enacted the Conservation of the Physical Landscape Act specifically to bring improved regulation to land clearing and excavation in relation to development, and to specifically identify and extend protection to indigenous hardwood trees.

We established the National Creek and Wetlands Initiatives to protect the ecological diversity of the Bahamas.

We doubled the national park system of the Bahamas under the management of the Bahamas National Trust and we doubled the annual contribution by the Government to the Trust.

We ratified critical international agreements and expanded international alliances as a responsible and accountable country among the community of nations.

And, we introduced legislation to enable customs duty and real property tax exemptions for restoration and preservation work undertaken on historic properties.

FNM concerns for the welfare of communities stretched across the country resulted in the establishment of environmental offices in all major Family Islands. These offices were designed to provide communities with systematic vector control, building inspections, port health services, licensing and monitoring of food establishments and other environmental enhancements.

The FNM government pursued an ambitious agenda of environmental conservation and brought about greater environmental appreciation by promoting awareness in the schools and throughout the country.

And the FNM increased opportunities for enjoyment of the environment through its policy of opening up new green spaces, creating new or protecting existing windows to the sea, and by enhancing beach access for the public.

FNM Promoted and Supported Foreign Investment

The position of the Free National Movement on international investment in the Bahamas is a matter of public record. The FNM as a party and as a government has promoted and supported international investment in our country for the benefit of Bahamians and the investors.

Investment is business and investors rightly expect to gainfully benefit from their investments in The Bahamas.

At the same time, international investment is also business for the Bahamas: it provides important foreign exchange earning; it introduces new technologies and skills needed for the advancement of our people; it provides new employment opportunities and creates new business opportunities for Bahamians in related spin-off enterprises thereby creating even more jobs, deepening Bahamian participation and ownership in the economy; thus, international investments in the Bahamas contributes to the creation of Bahamian wealth.

As such, international investment has been an important, indeed critical, tool in the national development model adopted by successive government of the Bahamas dating back to colonial times.

It is a tool that the FNM used successfully to revitalize the deteriorated and unprofitable Bahamian tourism sector beginning in August, 1992.

And it was the tool used by the FNM to facilitate the rebirth of Freeport, Grand Bahama, during the 1990s when, finally, the dream of the city’s founder for that port city -- to host a major container transshipment enterprise and to offer mega ship and yacht repair -- was realized.

The FNM fully expects to continue to welcome and to use desirable international investment in the Bahamas as one of the engines for our further national development.