Turnquest laments closure of Deep Water Cay

By YOURI KEMP

THE closure of the country's oldest bonefishing lodge will have "significant" economic impact on communities in East Grand Bahama, according to the minister of finance.

K Peter Turnquest, deputy prime minister and also member of Parliament for East Grand Bahama, lamented the lodge's closure due to Hurricane Dorian damage yesterday, saying it will affect the area's economic recovery.

On Sunday, Deep Water Cay, whose owners have invested some $44m in upgrades over the past decade, said in a statement that operations would end immediately.

The reknowned bonefishing lodge said that Hurricane Dorian clean-up would cost $1m alone and that it had no alternative but to cease operations.

Asked about the closure, Mr Turnquest told Tribune Business: "The loss of Deep Water Cay resort in East Grand Bahama is significant for the communities of Sweeting's Cay and McLean's Town, where almost 60 persons were previously employed. The economic effect of these lost jobs will factor in the pace of the economic recovery of the area and the pace of reconstruction."

Deep Water Cay also said its workers were made redundant last week and that it would take at least six months to get the property properly cleaned up.

"The government for its part will ensure that the social safety net takes into consideration the expanded needs of these persons as well as provide the incentives to encourage alternative employment or income generating activities," Mr Turnquest added.

Tribune Business reported on Monday that since Dorian struck, Deep Water Cay has been providing emergency aid and supplies, raising charitable funds, assessing the damage to its property and liaising with insurance adjusters.

The lodge said Sunday that the clean-up of island homes, lodges, and guest facilities will require barges and heavy equipment, but the island lost its docks to facilitate this work. The cay is also far from safe or habitable, with only the runway clear of debris for landing aid planes.

"Expected clean-up of the cay is estimated at well over $1m," said Paul R Vahldiek Jr, Deep Water Cay Holdings president and a major shareholder. "It will take at least six months and require heavy equipment, operators, and proper disposal of many tons of debris to clean the cay.

"With no idea when power will be restored to East End, and no structures that can be connected on the island - no housing, offices, functioning water or sewage treatment plants in place - we have simply been forced by mother nature to close."

Deep Water Cay represents the area's major employer and also provides numerous spin-off entrepreneurial and job opportunities.

"It employed pretty much everyone down there," one contact, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Tribune Business on Sunday. "Nobody wants their place to close but it's trashed; it's horrible. They have to wait, look at what they've got, clean it up and assess."