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News : Local Last Updated: Feb 6, 2017 - 2:32:04 PM


1,300+ Sign Petition to Stop Bimini Dock Construction
By Sarah Kirkby
Jun 25, 2013 - 4:26:49 PM

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Bimini photo by MarkDaCunha.com

Bimini residents who lost a battle five years ago to halt the development of a mega-resort and marina they feared would damage their famed waters and change their lives forever came out in full fighting force this week to say enough is enough -- more than 1,300 signed a petition to stop construction of a 1,000-foot dock to serve cruise ships delivering passengers to Genting's Resorts World Bimini Bay casino due to open soon. The petition, drafted and circulated on www.change.org was organized by the environmental organisation called Bimini Blue Coalition, demands that the government require a new plan with a gentler footprint.

"The current proposal being put forth by Genting's newly acquired Resorts World Bimini Bay calls for the creation of a massive cruise ship terminal off the western shore of North Bimini. These plans include a 1,000 foot dock extending west off North Bimini's beaches, the creation of a large man-made island offshore, and an enormous amount of related dredging. All of this is being proposed in areas of densely populated coral reef habitat," the petition said. "The damage to the surrounding reefs will be catastrophic and the landscape of Bimini will be forever transformed."

The petition calls on Bahamas Prime Minister Perry Christie to halt the construction and require alternate plans, claiming that Bimini's future "depends upon keeping our waters clean, our reefs healthy, and our fisheries thriving."

"Any new proposals must not adversely impact Bimini's reefs or marine ecosystems, must not negatively affect the North Bimini Marine Reserve, must not negatively impact the quality of life or property value of North Bimini's residents and homeowners, and should take into consideration the ideas the ideas and concerns of Bimini's residents, stakeholders and homeowners."

The small islands of North and South Bimini just 50 miles off Florida's southeast shores have gained international fame for the beauty of their waters, coral reefs and big game fish. Ernest Hemingway immortalized these jewels in the sun, waxing poetic in the 1930s when he lived at a small hotel called the Compleat Angler. Zane Gray fish here and Martin Luther King is reported to have been so inspired by Bimini that he wrote a large part of his "I Have A Dream" speech while in Bimini. Local residents, some born in The Bahamas, others who have made it their adopted home, have been praising smaller resorts like Bimini Sands and the Bimini Big Game Club, but this is the first time so many have united in a single loud voice to try to stand up to authorities, insisting that large and mega resorts with hundreds of mega yachts and now thousands of cruise passengers overwhelm the delicate balance. South Bimini is seven square miles with a population of 1500.      

In January of 2013, the Bimini Blue Coalition (BBC) was formed to help promote a sustainable tourism industry for growing Bimini’s economy, while also working to preserve the islands ecological integrity.  As a partnership between residents, homeowners, and frequent visitors to the island, the Bimini Blue Coalition has recently attempted to bring the discussions about this proposed terminal out from behind closed doors.

The BBC has highlighted several problems with the proposed ship terminal, and has tried to provide an outlet for the residents and visitors to Bimini who will be negatively impacted if these plans go forward.

The BBC doesn’t think that proven attractions to the island, particularly the coral reef ecosystems and vibrant blue waters, should be compromised or damaged for the sake of adding a new aspect to Bimini’s tourism product, especially when there are no guarantees that this casino will be successful.  The Bimini Blue Coalition thinks that the Government should demand a better plan from the developers, one that doesn’t carry such risk the ecological and economic fate of the island.

Neal Watson Jr., who grew up in Bimini and has recently moved back home to run a SCUBA diving operation, worries about the impacts on the nearby coral reefs. He explains, “The terminal is being planned right where many of Bimini’s most popular dive sites are.  There are 14 reef or wreck sites within 1.5 miles of the plans.  It’s not just a concern for Bimini’s dive industry, think about all the fish, conch, and lobster that inhabit those reefs, and how many people rely on those resources.”

Another widespread concern is how this terminal will negatively impact the landscape of Bimini as well as property values for those that have already invested in the island.   As one of the smallest island groups in the country, it could prove hard to escape the sight of such a colossal construction.  One North Bimini homeowner stated, “They’re essentially going to ruin the scenery that has helps make Bimini desirable.  The pristine beaches, the stunning blue waters and the incredible sunsets will all be marred by a cruise ship dock.  It’s going to make the nearby beachfront properties worthless.”

Lastly, many question the sustainability of bringing such a large vessel to the island, one that would essentially double the population of Bimini if it arrived full, and wonder why Biminites have been left out of the planning process.  Local businessman Al Sweeting Jr. concludes, “Everything about this plan will turn away those who have supported us for generations. They will move on to places smart enough to leave their natural beauty alone. What will we be left with?”

Developers of the Bimini Bay project and its cruise components say they have already spent more than $2 million on $2.4 million project, including dredging and construction. The superfast ferry that will run from Miami to Bimini daily is set to be launched in a two-nation ceremony the end of this week.  To learn m ore about Bimini Blue Coaltions fight to save Bimini  and their petition visit their website at www.biminibluecoalition.org or find them on facebook.


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