[Coral-List] Placencia, Belize: effect of proposed development on corals in southern Belize

Mary Toy mtoy at destinationsbelize.com
Thu Apr 13 13:10:35 EDT 2006

Dear Coral List Subscribers:

I hope the following request is appropriate for this list.  If not, I
apologize in advance.

The Placencia Peninsula in southern Belize is a narrow, 14 mile peninsula
bounded on the west by the Placencia Lagoon, and on the east and south by
the Caribbean.  Population of the Peninsula is about 1,500 people spread
along its 14-mile length.  The primary industry here is tourism, mostly
scuba diving, sport fishing, snorkeling and kayaking related tourism.  All
guides are from the area and most tour operators are also local.  Hotels and
resorts are generally small, mom and pop operations, with the largest hotel
having about 50 rooms.  (The second largest hotel probably has 20.)   

In March 2006, the Belize Department of the Environment printed an
announcement in the local papers about an Environmental Impact Assessment
(EIA) for a LARGE resort development at the northern end of the Peninsula
that will include a 67-acre marina holding up to 400 boats of up to 100 feet
in length.  Construction of the marina will involve a huge dredging project
on the Caribbean side of the proposed development area, and will include two
50 meter breakwater jetties.  

We have absolutely no one in the area who has the training to assess the
very technical components of the EIA regarding the dredging project and its
potential effects on corals located in the Caribbean off the Peninsula.  The
developer's consulting engineer (Shabica and Associates) discusses
mitigating measures such as suction dredging, siltation curtains, etc. 

However, we do not know whether these measures are likely to be effective,
and what kind of conditions should be imposed on these measures to make them
effective.  (For example, are all siltation curtains created equal?  If not,
which kind of curtains should we try to require them to use and how should
they be positioned? Will suction dredging work if used only at the mouths of
the marina, or should suction dredging be required for the entire dredging

Also, the fill from the dredging will be deposited on land for later use in
constructing a golf course.  The amount of fill to be dredged is estimated
at 1.2 million cubic yards, so it seems to us that a great risk of runoff
exists if the fill is not contained properly.  

Potential runoff from the chemicals that may be used on the golf course is
also a source of concern.  The golf course abut the Placencia Lagoon, which
empties into the Caribbean, and surface water run-off from the development
will also be directed into the Lagoon.  

In addition, the projected population of the resort at completion will be
almost 13,000 people, which also presents issues of waste water and garbage
disposal which could also affect the health of our coral reefs. (Not to
mention the social ones of injecting 13,000 tourists into a community of

This proposed project has created great concern on the Peninsula, and we're
doing the best we can, but we know we are missing potentially very
significant technical issues simply because no one here has the expertise to
recognize or address them.  

We have managed to convince the Belize Department of the Environment that a
formal public hearing on the proposed development is necessary, and the
hearing date has been set for 3 May 2006.  We want to hold informational
public meetings prior to the hearing to educate Peninsula residents about
the project.  (We have also had a tremendous issue with getting information
about the project - we were only able to get copies of the EIA 6 days before
the formal comment period was over, and only by physically driving to
Belmopan, Belize's capital city, and copying CDs of the EIA housed at the
Department of the Environment.

Does anyone know anyone who might be willing to take a look at the EIA and
related Annex of technical documents to  give us a heads up on issues so
that we can at least raise the issues, even if we can't make technical
recommendations about them?

As soon as we received the CDs, we uploaded them to a file sharing site.
Relevant documents can be found as follows:

EIA:  http://depositfiles.com/en/files/8044/aramacaoeiafinal.pdf.html
Annex:  http://depositfiles.com/en/files/8100/aramacaoannexes.pdf.html
Fact Sheet:
Preliminary Comments:  http://www.placencia.com/PlacenciaProgress.htm (these
were produced very quickly in order to get something on the record)
Site Plan Poster:

Again, I apologize if this is an inappropriate posting.  Also, thank you in
advance to anyone who has any suggestions.

Mary Toy, Placencia, Belize
Mary Toy, Destinations Belize
Specializing in Belize Travel and Tours
Email:  mtoy at destinationsbelize.com
Website:  www.destinationsbelize.com
Belize Phone:  501-523-4018
Belize Cell:  501-610-4718
Belize Mailing Address: 
     General Delivery, Placencia, Belize
US Fax and Voice Mail:  1-603-452-4797

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