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Work to Begin Soon at Salt Whistle Bay; Stop Stacking Conch Shells There – Minister

Work to Begin Soon at Salt Whistle Bay; Stop Stacking Conch Shells There – Minister
Erosion at Salt Whistle Bay, Mayreau.

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Contractors will begin physical work on a temporary solution to the Salt Whistle Bay erosion by the second week of July.

And Mayreau residents, who have been stacking conch shells in the eroded area to slow the erosion process, are being asked to put a hold to these activities.

Work to Begin Soon at Salt Whistle Bay; Stop Stacking Conch Shells There - Minister
A truck on it’s way to deliver conch shells to Salt Whistle Bay for stacking along the shorelines

“As we all know, because its been discussed many times in this honourable House, erosion, wave action and sea level rise are threatening a very narrow isthmus of land at Salt Whistle Bay; threatens to damage irreparably one of the finest beaches in St Vincent and the Grenadines, indeed one of the finest beaches anywhere in the Caribbean,” Camillo Gonsalves, the finance minister said in Parliament yesterday, while giving an update on the issue.

The finance minister was among engineers and officials who visited Salt Whistle Bay on September 19, 2019 to assess the erosion taking place.

Yesterday, the minister said that $1.3 million was allocated in this year’s budget to address the erosion at the world famous beach, with the intention to spend $300,000 this year and $1 million in 2021.

Gonsalves said consultations with contractors across this country revealed that a long term solution to the problem, which involves reinforcing the natural reef that exists at the location, would take a long time.

He added that there were also a number of logistical challenges that would extend the time necessary to implement a long term solution.

A group of contractors, engineers and officials from the Ministry of Transport and Works, BRAGSA and the Regional Disaster Management and Vulnerability Project (RDVRP) visited the site on May 31 to discuss a short term solution to the problem.

Work to Begin Soon at Salt Whistle Bay; Stop Stacking Conch Shells There - Minister
Camillo Gonsalves, the finance minister

“The consensus after the May 31 trip was that the most readily implementable programme would be a series of boulders right along the contour of the isthmus and various geo textile materials that would protect the bay while we implement the long term solution,” Gonsalves said in Parliament.

He added that “the Ministry of Transport and works formulated a single bid document. The tender went out on the 9th of June, the bids were received on the 20th of June; three bidders, Trinidad Contractors, Obispado and Kelectric tendered responsive bids and this week the bids will be considered by the Tenders Board”.

While there is no specific commencement date, Gonsalves said it is expected that work will begin either in the first or second week of July.

He added that tidal and bathymetric studies among other things are ongoing so as to devise “an optimal and attractive long term solution to the problem”.

Engineer Dimitri Samuel was among the officials who visited the site in September 2019.

Samuel told SEARCHLIGHT then that there seemed to be a failure of the existing coral reef and he suggested the use of an abundance of conch shells to create a natural barrier to support the coral reef.

And in May 2020, Mayreau residents launched the “Save our Salt Whistle Bay” initiative, where they began stacking conch shells along the eroding coastline in an effort to slow the erosion.

During his statement in Parliament yesterday, the finance minister pleaded with Mayreau residents to desist from placing conch shells in the significantly eroded area as it would hinder the progress of the contractor who would start work on the project.

“All of the contractors have indicated that they are going to have to clean up that mess essentially before they begin their work and that the small rocks and small shells being placed there are creating more of a problem than if they just left the sand alone because the wave is just battering these small things against the isthmus and increasing the potential erosion rate,” Gonsalves said.

Acquiring an abundance of conch shells for the “Save the Salt Whistle Bay” initiative appeared to be an issue as diving for conch is not as prominent on Mayreau as it is on Union Island, another Grenadine island.

The Canouan Island Council shared a post on its Facebook page on June 20 with a truckload of conch shells that were collected and taken to Mayreau.

Junior Stevens, a member of the Council told SEARCHLIGHT yesterday that the organisation wanted to lend a hand in the efforts of Mayreau residents to protect the beach.

He said the four-tonne truck went to Mayreau on MV Guidance and other truckloads were intended to go to the Southern Grenadines island today and Friday, June 26.

But Stevens said that this will be put on hold, following the minister’s statement in Parliament.

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