Left to Right: CAMILLO GONSALVES, Minister of Economic Planning and Sustainable Development & Munro Forde, ONE OF THE leaders of the Mayreau based effort
July 17, 2020
Mayreau residents want more dialogue with gov’t on Salt Whistle Bay project

GOVERNMENT HAS signed a contract with K-Lectric Company Ltd for the “Salt Whistle Bay Emergency Coastal Protection Works” and has promised that physical work will begin soon.

However, while the beginning of work to save the eroding isthmus of the well-known Salt Whistle Bay is welcomed, some Mayreau residents feel they have been left out of the loop.

Salt Whistle Bay, located within the protected Tobago Cays Marine Park, is a picturesque anchorage that may change its appearance soon, if the Atlantic Ocean breaches a narrow crossover between two larger pieces of land.

This week being the second week of July, Mayreau residents were expecting that physical work would have begun at the eroded area as promised.

This Tuesday, July 15, Minister of Economic Planning and Sustainable Development, Camillo Gonsalves posted a “Salt Whistle Bay Update” on his Facebook page following reports that the residents on Mayreau were “asking questions about the progress.” Reportedly, the last time the residents heard from the Minister was when the announcement was made in Parliament on June 22 that a temporary solution was being worked out, and that three bids had been tendered for the project. At the time, Gonsalves had indicated that the first/second week of July was the expected start of the temporary protection works.

The Minister attached pages of the contract to his Facebook post, including the conditions of the agreement and drawings of the work to be done in the area. The contract was signed between the Government and KLectric Company Ltd on July 7.

“The signing occurred about a week later than originally planned for reasons beyond everyone’s control,” the Minister explained.

“Klectric is currently mobilising equipment to take to Mayreau and selecting the correct size/ weight boulders for the job. The company has a rep on-island already dealing with the preparatory logistics,” the post reads.

He asked that persons do not resume placing conch shells in the area, as this would delay the project, because the shells would have to be removed for the placement of boulders and geotextile material.

“The most efficient thing to do now is to allow the professionals to plan and mobilise properly. You will soon see the start of physical works,” Gonsalves said. He added that work on the temporary solution would be completed by early September. The contract’s completion date is September 7.

“Work on a more permanent, attractive solution is ongoing,” he signed off.

According to the conditions of the contract, the works will involve “the provision of boulders, cobbles and geotextile fabric for the construction of a coastal revetment over 150ft of Atlantic coastline on the island of Mayreau.”

Gonsalves’ post on Facebook came less than one day after the Mayreau residents responsible for the “Save Our Salt Whistle Bay” community effort spoke to SEARCHLIGHT about what appeared to be a delay in the beginning of the work.

These residents had halted their own efforts to place a natural barrier using conch shells, along the line of erosion caused by the Atlantic because they were told that the shells would have to be removed before the start of the project and that the shells were making the situation worse.

This is in spite of a suggestion to use conch shells made by an engineer who accompanied Minister Gonsalves to the island in 2019.

When the residents were told to stop, they had already secured hundreds of conch shells and set up a GoFundMe account.

Before Gonsalves gave the update, the community had indicated that they would resume the placing of conch shells in the area by this weekend.

Following the Minister’s update, SEARCHLIGHT reached out to Munro Forde, who is one of the leaders of the Mayreau based effort. While it has been said that someone from Klectric has been speaking to Mayreau residents about the project, Forde said he is not aware of this.

Nonetheless, he noted that if there is someone on-island dealing with preparatory logistics, he is very happy, because “I really want this aspect of the work to begin and to begin soon,” because of the fact that the Hurricane season is here, and the isthmus is in a delicate state.

However, he also noted that “the people are asking for a consultation in terms of…the Government actually relaying the information.”

Despite the brief given by the Minister recently, Forde explained that they expected a more “in depth” consultation.

“In terms of actually having a talk with the people of Mayreau to say well this is what they recommended to be done, what do you guys think, nothing like that…,” the Mayreau resident said.

“…they just practically acting on their own and there is no dialogue, there is nothing with the people of Mayreau. We are not really appreciative of that, but at the same time we want the work to be done, so I guess we have no choice,” Forde commented.

Forde said he really feels a dialogue with the people of Mayreau is important and necessary because at the end of the day, they are the ones who will be impacted. “…They could have heard our feedback…if we’re satisfied with what they are doing or if we think there is a need to do something else or whatever the case may be,” he commented.