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Storm highlights need for changes in setbacks

Environment 14 Feb, 2024 Follow News

Storm highlights need for changes in setbacks

Having endured one of the strongest Nor’westers the islands have seen in a good few many years, some coastal properties around Grand Cayman have suffered considerable damage, so it is time for a complete rethink as to how setbacks are arrived at, according to the Department of Environment.

In a statement, the DoE said the photos and videos they received during and after the storm that hit the Cayman Islands on 6th February through social media depicting devastating damage to property and the worries about the vulnerability of coastal development prompted them to review their technical assessments for a number of those developments along the western shore of Grand Cayman. This area experienced particularly severe impacts from high energy wave action and storm surge.

The DoE is regularly consulted on development projects under delegated authority of the National Conservation Council (NCC) as outlined under section 41 of the National Conservation Act (NCA), which means that government entities must consult with the Council on any decisions which may have an adverse effect on the environment. Its team of environmental and sustainability experts provide written technical assessments on a project basis to the originating entity, though most of these assessments are not legally binding, and are recommendations only.

To organise this information, the DoE has created a map which presents DoE/NCC’s original technical review and how the review was incorporated into decisions related to coastal development, along with the publicly circulated video clips showing what was experienced at those locations on February 6th.

“The results show how critically important it is to not generalise coastal setbacks, but, instead, to take account of all factors which contribute to the vulnerability of a particular location to wave action and coastal inundation,” the DoE explained. “At a minimum, the following factors should be considered: coastal type; elevation; location in relation to windward or leeward sides of the island; the presence or absence of a shallow coastal lagoon fronted by a protective fringing reef; and the presence of deep water close to shore.”

The DoE said until Planning Regulations were amended to include a coastal setback map which is based on consideration of these factors, it was their sincere hope that the Ministry of Sustainability and Climate Resiliency’s proposal for a fixed coastal setback reference line along Seven Mile Beach based on long-term scientific data be considered for immediate implementation. This would help guide future developments. They also hoped that a consistent policy be applied by the planning officials of all proposed coastal development having to at least meet the currently specified minimum setbacks.

Contact doe@gov.ky  for more information.

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