The Bahamas: Bimini Dredging Continues During Court Postponement
There may soon be nothing left in Bimini to argue over according to attorney Fred Smith, QC, as a massive seafloor dredging operation was allowed to continue during a court postponement, with 38% of the work already complete thanks to a “dramatically increased” rate of excavation.
Mr. Smith, who represents Bimini Blue Coalition (BBC), a group of activists and concerned citizens seeking to protect Bimini’s invaluable marine resources in the face of the construction of a mega-resort and 1,000 foot ferry terminal, said that according to the developer’s own reports, 53,000 cubic yards had been dredged between May 16th and 21st , but over the next two days the total jumped to 150,000 cubic yards, the acceleration coinciding with BBC’s legal efforts to stop it.
On Monday, his clients, Bimini Blue Coalition (BBC) were set to present their case against a recent Supreme Court decision to allow dredging to resume, overturning an injunction granted by the Privy Council in London.
However, the matter was delayed until Wednesday after attorneys for the developer, Resorts World Bimini, said they had not had an opportunity to read Mr. Smith’s submissions, having only received them the night before. Two of the three justices of the court said they also had not had a chance to read the documents.
RWB lawyer John Wilson said he had no desire to delay the proceedings, but Mr. Smith pointed out that on the eve of last week’s Supreme Court case, BBC’s team was likewise given short notice of the developer’s submissions but was nevertheless ready to proceed the next day, despite having to consider a large amount of new material.
The BBC attorney said he had no objection to an adjournment, provided that “in the interest of justice and preventing irreparable damage” dredging stops in the meantime. At the rate work has been proceeding, he said, excavation would be nearly complete by the time the court reconvened.
Mr. Smith emphasized that his clients are not against development, but rather support “regulated, organized, consultative development.”
Claiming the developers are proceeding without a number of necessary approvals and permits after greatly expanding the nature and scope of the project, he said: “It is about respect or the locals, respect for the process.”
For his part, Mr. Wilson argued that the dredging would only be 60% complete by Wednesday.
He added that his client had already lost $1 million because of the delays to dredging caused by BBC’s court challenge.
Mr. Wilson said if “justice screams out at anything” it would be against halting the dredging on behalf of an organization that, if it loses, cannot afford to reimburse RWB, leaving the developer out of pocket.
The court decided to grant an adjournment, but reject the application for a stay of the dredging. The matter turned on the definition of the “status quo” which Mr. Smith was asking the court to maintain.
He argued that the Privy Council’s injunction should be maintained in the face of a challenge to the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn it. But COA president Anita Allen asserted that “the status quo was dredging”.
The decision to allow dredging to continue was a split one, with dissenting justice Abdullai Conteh saying he regarded the granting of the stay as necessary to protect “the integrity of the proceedings as a whole”.
“Even the heavens cry out for this. It is only fair,” he said.
Calling the developer’s concern over its losses a valid consideration, Justice Conteh nevertheless said the denial of Mr. Smith’s request flew in the face of the decision of the Privy Council, the highest court in the land.
Press release, June 4, 2014