Unregulated Development at Nygard Cay
Over the last 20 years, Peter Nygard has illegally expanded his property at Simms Point to nearly twice its original size (see photos below). Finally, the government has required him to apply for permits for the work he’s done to claim $35 million worth of crown land, the same work that has already caused environmental destruction to Clifton Bay and Jaws Beach. He’s also applied to keep going, expanding his land further into the seabed, which belongs to the Bahamian people. Plans can be viewed at the Department of Physical Planning in the Ministry of Works Building (ground floor) Application #116140
UPDATE: 15 June 2013
Following an ex parte hearing on 13 June 2013 before Supreme Court Justice Rhonda Bain, Save The Bays is delighted to announce unregulated development at Nygard Cay and Jaws Beach has been ordered to halt immediately and permission has been given for Save The Bays to challenge government inaction in relation to these unauthorized activities.
The purpose of the proceedings is to ensure that the Government exercises its statutory powers, given for the purposes of maintaining the environment, in relation to the unlawful reclamation of Crown land by Peter Nygard and unpermitted construction activities at Jaws Beach by Keod Smith.
The relevant Government departments have also been ordered to disclose any applications by Mr Nygard and Mr Smith for permits or approvals, confirm what consents and leases have been granted (if any) any provide related correspondence. This kind of information would be available to all in any case if The Bahamas had a badly needed Freedom of Information Act.
After these crucial steps have been taken, a trial date will be set. As ever, we’ll be sure to keep you updated on how these proceedings progress.
Please find a link to recent coverage of the court action in The Tribune: Court halts Peter Nygard work in Clifton Bay area.
The area under Simms Point/Nygard Cay’s Clifton Bay dock has been completely filled with rock, effectively creating a hidden groin and cutting off the long-term supply of sand to downdrift landowners (see 2000 Dr. Stephen Leatherman’s Shore Modifications). Wire structures filled with rocks, cinder blocks and debris have been dumped onto the seagrass beds of Clifton Bay south of Simms Point/Nygard Cay. These wire structures, or gabions, have been stabilized with woven polypropylene sandbags and plastic buckets filled with debris. The gabions, sandbags, and plastic buckets create an artificial reef extending west from the dock (see Simms Point/Nygard Cay Expansion Photo Story).
A suction dredge on a floating platform has been used to support a pump to move sand from offshore to the beach. “No sediment curtain was used and massive destruction to the nearshore seagrass occurred in a large area” (see 2005 Coastal Incident Report). The sand pumped onshore is trapped by the artificial reef and “sandbags and gabions have been used to contain the large amounts of sand moved along the shoreline,” creating a beautiful beach on Simms Point/Nygard Cay. Unfortunately, Clifton Bay is left with “large holes and devastated sea beds which are littered with plastic debris, steel wires, rock debris, bottles, cinder blocks, PVC pipe fragments, etc.” (see 2011 University of Miami Sea Floor Report).
The “area of seafloor directly impacted by dredging, destruction to the seagrass bed, debris and trash from land, and gabions” is estimated by the University of Miami to be 84,000 square meters. “This restructuring of the shoreline has changed the marine habitats dramatically within about 100 meters of the shore, with the most notable damage being the loss of reef areas to the west” (See 2001 University of Miami Marine Environment Report).
After years of activity which the government claimed was illegal and unpermitted – a claim denied by the property’s owner – Simms Point/Nygard Cay has almost doubled in size, from 3.2 acres in 1984 to 6.1 acres in 2012. There has been little apparent oversight exercised by those commissions, governmental agencies, and laws empowered to manage coastal expansion or the taking of Crown Lands, although the Attorney General – acting on behalf of the Bahamian government in 2012 – denied that the accreted land has been caused by tidal forces.
To the contrary, the Attorney General stated that “such land has been caused by the deliberate and calculated acts and works of the Plaintiff (Mr. Nygard)” and denied that Mr. Nygard “obtained all necessary approvals from the Department of Lands and Surveys.” The statement went on to say that “numerous letters were written for and on behalf of the Attorney General either asserting the Crown’s rights in the foreshore and seabed, alleging various incidents of unauthorized dredging and construction works and requiring Mr. Nygard cease and desist such activities.” These repeated letters and warnings culminated in the Bahamian government “issuing a request for Mr. Nygard to restore the coastline to its 1984 boundaries.” Furthermore, “Despite repeated requests, the Plaintiff (Mr. Nygard) failed to comply.”
After failing to comply, Mr. Nygard commenced an application for judicial review seeking “a declaration of ownership of the land which had allegedly accreted to the Nygard Property. This accreted Crown land reputedly has a value of between $25 to $30 million. Should our government give – or lease – this artificially created real estate to the landowner who caused this devastation to our common marine habitat?
This type of poorly regulated activity is a threat to Clifton Bay and, by extension, sets a precedent. If all property owners in The Bahamas were allowed by the government regulatory bodies to artificially expand and develop their beach fronts the way Simms Point/Nygard Cay’s property owner has done, it would have a catastrophic effect on the reefs, marine habitat and aquatic life that make the Bahamian waters so special and unique.