The Department of Environment (DoE) has been in discussions with Dart around the Royal Palms site since Tropical Storm Ian passed near the Cayman Islands. The majority of Cayman was spared significant damage, with one notable exception being vulnerable coastal developments such as the Royal Palms site. The damage incurred under relatively mild storm conditions highlights how inappropriately sited development can result in high public and private cost from chronic beach erosion, damage to structures, and risk to the public etc.
Following outreach from the Dart team, the DoE requested professional coastal engineering guidance regarding proposed seawall repairs at Royal Palms. The advice received from Olsen Associates recommended managed retreat, saying, “The Royal Palms site presents an excellent opportunity – probably the most ideal contemporary example along south SMB – to restore reliable sand beach at a developed property through a landward relocation of a seawall/hardscape. The site presents ample upland space to slightly retreat from the sea.”
On the basis of the advice we received from coastal engineers, we recommended that Dart should remove the Royal Palms beach bar as part of managed retreat. However, our current understanding is that Dart has not yet committed to doing so.
We are in agreement with Dart that the wall at Royal Palms was a safety hazard and could have collapsed causing greater damage to the marine environment. During our discussions, Dart proposed to remove the debris and the outer sea wall using heavy equipment from the deck of the Royal Palms development. The DoE agreed to the proposed methodology on Tuesday, 22 November 2022 subject to conditions to protect the environment. On 23 November 2022, Dart suggested a different approach, to use the boulders to create a reinforced seawall, however we do not support reinforcing the seawall and we do not support leaving the boulders in the environment. Dart agreed to proceed with their original methodology but suggested the boulders be used temporarily to support the heavy equipment in accessing the debris. DoE agreed on the basis this would be less intrusive than other options such as the placement of crusher run, shot rock, or driving directly on the beach or sea bed.
Dart has informed us that all boulders and debris will be removed by the end of the works which is expected around the end of next week. Although silt screens do assist in the containment of turbidity, they do not work perfectly and therefore only partially mitigate the effect of this type of construction. The DoE has been monitoring the works to ensure that the methodology is adhered to and our conditions are complied with.
Although this work will address the immediate safety hazard, a long term solution of managed retreat at this site is needed.
Download the Olsen Associates Royal Palms Report