New, temporary anchorage restrictions are now in effect in parts of the West Bay replenishment zone.
The restrictions were enacted Thursday 18 February, to facilitate a restoration project on a section of reef damaged by a mega-yacht’s anchor chain. however, that reef restoration plan has yet to gain approval from the Department of Environment, two weeks after the plan was submitted.
Microsoft co-founder, billionaire Paul Allen’s 300 ft yacht Tatoosh has been under investigation by the DOE since January 14th, when divers first reported extensive damage to the reef on Grand Cayman’s west side.
At the request of the DOE, the Port Authority ordered a 200-yard restricted anchorage zone around the impacted area. A press release said the exclusion is to accommodate future reef restoration work on the more than 13,000 square foot area of damage.
According to Vulcan Inc, Mr. Allen’s company, the DOE has yet to give full approval to Mr. Allen’s plan to restore the reef at his expense, even though the plans were submitted by Vulcan’s experts on 3 February.
The company issued Cayman 27 a statement shortly before news time Thursday (18 February) stressing that time is of the essence for corals in the impacted area. Here is the statement in its entirety:
Following the incident with M/V Tatoosh on January 14, 2016, Paul G. Allen and his representatives at Vulcan Inc. swiftly took steps to develop a remediation plan to assist in repairing the impacted portion of the reef. We took this step even though extensive past and recent damage to this same reef, as a result of other incidents that were not remediated, makes it difficult to determine what, if any, actual damage was caused by the Tatoosh.
Mr. Allen and Vulcan retained experts in coral restoration who promptly traveled to Grand Cayman to assess and report on the situation, and on February 3rd, a remediation plan was provided to the Department of Environment. Mr. Allen and Vulcan asked the Department to consider the plan on an expedited basis in order to move swiftly to restore the reef. Anticipating an early approval of the plan, Vulcan dispatched experts to the Cayman Islands to be ready to begin work as soon as it was approved. Unfortunately, more than two weeks have passed and although we have responded promptly and collaboratively to every request from the Department on our plan, local officials have not yet given final approval to begin the work.
On Tuesday of this week, our experts inspected the site and advised there should be no further delay. So once again, we recommended to the Department that our experts be allowed to undertake that work immediately. We also learned on Tuesday of this week that the Department of the Environment’s own experts had reached the same conclusion. We are therefore pleased to be able to announce that our experts and those of the Department spent yesterday and today working together at the site.
We continue to impress on the Department the urgency of approving the full remediation plan so that work may continue. The department has yet to do so, despite the clear agreement between the experts on almost all technical aspects, and thereby delaying repair of the coral. We are ready and willing to continue the work of the last two days and are hopeful the remediation plan can now be promptly approved and implemented in the same spirit of collaboration and cooperation as was demonstrated over the past two days.
There is nothing more important than the pressing need to save and restore the damaged coral, and Paul Allen and Vulcan continue to stand ready to do our part. – Vulcan Inc.
The restriction means public moorings at the Knife dive site and Marty’s Wall are off limits, however nearby public moorings at Mitch Miller’s reef, the Doc Poulson wreck, and Three Trees remain open. Vessels wishing to access the site must apply to Port Authority.
A spokesperson on behalf of the DOE told Cayman 27 more information about the reef restoration will likely be available in coming days.