Friday, June 9, 2023
• Royal Caribbean eyes 'acoustic barrier' to control noise
• Beaches will be expanded on land side, but not seaward
• Pledges 'environmentally progressive' development plan
By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
Royal Caribbean has pledged to reduce the size of building structures for its $100m Paradise Island project by a combined 24,000 square feet while "building the least amount of infrastructure as possible".
The cruise giant, in new documents released prior to last night's Department of Environmental Planning and Protection (DEPP) consultation on the Royal Beach Club, promised it will create "the ultimate beach day" for thousands of passengers with any beach expansion moving inland as opposed to into the sea.
The project's supplemental Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), produced by Bahamian consultancy Islands by Design, disclosed that Royal Caribbean plans to reduce the footprint for its so-called 'front of house' and 'back of house' buildings by 9,000 square feet and 15,000 square feet, respectively.
"Our refreshed site plan reflects a vision to create the ultimate beach day, restore Paradise Island and do so as one of the most environmentally-progressive tourism developments in The Bahamas," Royal Caribbean asserted. "One of our key planning goals is to build the least amount of infrastructure as possible, relying on scaled infrastructure in and around New Providence.
"The new masterplan reflects a reduction of approximately 9,000 square feet in front of house buildings and approximately 15,000 square feet in back-of-house buildings. Another key pillar was the restoration of the beaches to ensure health and stability of the sandy coastline.
"The new plan includes the removal of nearly 600 square feet of retaining walls to restore the beach back to its natural state. The new site plan also shows a separation of the pool experience in the centre of the site from one long pool to three smaller pools. This allows us to work with existing elevations on-site in the best way to minimise cut and fill, and maintain the integrity of the existing iron shore."
Last night's DEPP consultation, held at Queen's College, was preceded by allegations that Atlantis was urging its vendors and others to attend. A message, widely circulated on social media and alleged to have been sent by the Paradise Island mega resort, says: "It would be great if you are able to participate.
"I've attached the public notice with information on the meeting (including links to register your attendance and to join virtually). I think in-person participation would be more impactful. The meeting notice also includes the link to Royal Caribbean's project website."
However, sources familiar with the situation told this newspaper that, while the message had come from Atlantis, it was not widely circulated and had only been sent to other Paradise Island hotels that shared similar misgivings about Royal Caribbean's project and the potential environmental impact it would have.
Royal Caribbean's supplemental EIA, meanwhile, contained a variety of studies on the western Paradise Island site including noise pollution and coastal engineering reviews. Kevin Bodge, of Olsen Associates Inc, in the latter report said the cruise line's project will cover some 3,000 square feet of shoreline on both the northern and southern coasts starting from Paradise Beach Villas and moving west.
"In terms of the concerns raised regarding the project's development, to my knowledge the Royal Caribbean masterplan includes no proposed seaward expansion of beach areas (except landward and into the upland, which is preferable)," he wrote. "There is no plan to modify the beaches, except for landward expansion into the upland within the casuarina and vegetated back beach area along the west beach, and via removal of the existing seawall on the east beach."
Describing this as "a preferred 'retreat' strategy in contemporary beach management", Mr Bodge added that there will also be "no seawall construction upon a sandy beach. Instead, there is a landward relocation of the existing east end seawall, which is beneficial for the beach".
He also affirmed Royal Caribbean's previous assertions that its plans for the Colonial Beach area on western Paradise Island's tip contain "no overwater cabanas or other overwater structures other than dock replacement on the harbourside". Jetties, breakwaters, revetments "or other similar engineered structures that protrude into the sea or beyond the high water mark" are similarly excluded from the Royal Beach Club proposal, according to Mr Bodge.
Royal Caribbean has no plans for construction "at or seaward of the high water shoreline, and no expansion of the beach or hard structures into the sea". It is also, the coastal engineer said, not intending to excavate nearshore rock or ironshore, while there will be no development seawards of existing vegetation lines or seawalls.
Mr Bodge's report also said there are "no plans to alter or create pocket beaches along the ironshore or elsewhere", and "no modifications to the southside harbour shoreline beyond new pile supported docks that repair and/or replace some existing docks that would adversely affect nearshore processes beyond those structures that presently exist".
And, when it came to beach restoration in the aftermath of a major hurricane, Mr Bodge concluded: "In the worst projected acute case, after severe storm impacts the Royal Caribbean project beaches can be restored through routine beach nourishment in order to promptly resume operations.
"In the present case, two beaches comprising 1,200 feet of total beach length, a nominal emergency post-storm renourishment would likely comprise less than 20,000 cubic yards of sand replenishment. That is a relatively modest quantity on coastal engineering practice. It is less than one-fifth of that placed by Atlantis (Kerzner International) along Cabbage Beach after beach erosion impacts from Hurricane Floyd in 1999-2000."
The supplemental EIA also features a noise assessment of the Royal Beach Club, which calls for the creation of "an acoustic barrier wall" to separate the project's generators and back-of-house facilities from nearby residential villas and other residences.
"The acoustical modelling results show that the sound levels from the Royal Caribbean Beach Club activities on Paradise Island are anticipated to be well within typically allowable noise levels for impacted residential projects," consultant Melvin Saunders concluded.
"Residential villas immediately adjacent to the back-of-house/engine generator areas must be separated with the use of an acoustical barrier wall to minimise the impact to the residences. Other residential areas further away from the eastern portion of the Royal Beach Club are anticipated to experience noise levels in the mid-40 decibel range which is generally below the existing background noise levels found on the island."