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The EIA Process for Resorts and Marinas: A Full Environmental Impact Assessment

In most developed countries, permission of the local planning authority is required before any building project can commence. This is intended to permit orderly growth that contributes to the community without placing unnecessary burdens on the established infrastructure.

To render an informed decision, the authority must understand the proposed project and the impacts it will have on the community.

One of the tools used to make a good decision, is the environmental impact assessment (EIA). When properly implemented, the EIA will provide all the information necessary to allow the authority to make a decision that will benefit the local community.

Depending on the type of project, its size, and the potential impacts, the authority will determine the level of EIA required. In previous articles, we considered smaller developments, such as a house, where a ‘Limited EIA’ would gather sufficient information for the decision making process.

Now we will consider the requirements for a larger project, or one that may produce substantial impacts on the environment or community. Examples may include a hotel, marina, large resort, or a development in a wetland or other sensitive area. Such a project would be classified as a Category A development requiring a full EIA.

Unlike a limited EIA, the full EIA will involve much more detail and more topics to assess. Most of these topics will be identified in the Terms of Reference (ToR) issued by the Town & Country Planning Department (T&CPD). The planning department is the lead agency responsible for guiding development. As is often the case, this is easier said than done. The procedures for any EIA are available from the T&CPD – they are easy to understand and follow.

Briefly, once the project concept is in hand, the application for planning permission must be submitted. The Environmental Screening form usually follows. That will give the authority an idea of the scope of the proposal. A meeting with the T&CPD is useful because it offers an opportunity to present the ideas and receive some immediate feedback.

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Soon after, the ToR will be produced and that will guide the EIA – for a larger Category A development, the ToR will provide the guidance necessary to begin the EIA. Usually, a Scoping Report is required as a preliminary document.

This is sort of a ‘mini-EIA’ that describes the project and highlights some of the issues that may need to be assessed. That will provide a baseline condition that will help guide the preparation of the ToR. Since there is variation in size, location, and type of project, the details required in the EIA will also vary. However, there are some common threads in most EIA’s.

The project location and description sets the stage for the remainder of the report. Any EIA will require a detailed analysis of the biological environments, both on land and in the sea.

In addition to a general description of habitats, emphasis must be placed on rare and endangered species and species of economic concern. A water quality analysis is usually necessary for coastal sites.

All projects will require a Hazard & Vulnerability Assessment from the Department of Disaster Management.

Additional specialized reports may be helpful depending on site location and conditions. A historical and archaeological study is often necessary, especially if cultural or historically significant items are uncovered.

A full EIA will usually include numerous architectural and engineering drawings that depict the proposed development. Site plans, hydrological and drainage plans, and various specialised support materials should be included.

A Socio-Economic Assessment (SIA) is normally a significant section since it describes the project as it will impact the human community.

Such an assessment is important because it details the benefits of the project and also the potential negative impacts on infrastructure, social services, utilities, traffic, and other issues relevant to the community. Since the SIA is complex, it will be the subject of the next article.

A full EIA requires an evaluation of all the potential impacts of the project. These may be short or long-term, temporary or permanent. Along with the predictions of impacts, solutions must be offered. That includes an assessment of alternatives to the project, or the ‘no project’ scenario. This will lead to recommendations to reduce or manage impacts.

An environmental monitoring and management plan is also important, but may be only a preliminary document during the EIA process. A more detailed monitoring and mitigation plan will usually be expected to follow the EIA.

The final EIA report includes a substantial amount of data and a thorough analysis of the project and all the potential impacts, both positive and negative – there will be recommendations to maximise the benefits and suggestions offered to mitigate the negatives. The analysis should also summarise the positive and negative aspects of the proposal so it is easily understood by the public.

Once the EIA is submitted to the planning authority, it will be reviewed by all relevant governmental agencies for comments and suggestions. Often there will be requests for clarifications and additional information.

Finally, there will be an opportunity for public review of the document and a formal public hearing where the community will have an opportunity to comment, ask questions, and offer opinions to the regulatory agency. Only then will the planning authority be in a position to render an informed decision that is in the best interest of the wider community.

For previous articles or further information on the EIA process, click HERE

Erin Paviour-Smith

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