THE NATIONAL Infrastructure Development Company (Nidco) has responded to concerns about the Toco port project and said the Toco Bay site is not a critical habitat for turtles.
“Nidco emphasises that given its mandate and its managerial focus to operate as a responsible State agency, it will not embark on any major, core infrastructural project, without the necessary due diligence, and ongoing studies on all aspects such a project (that is) identification of the appropriate location, technical designs, environmental impact, and socio-economic viability.”
Nidco said remarks have been made about the possible destruction of turtle nesting sites. Nidco reported the Institute of Marine Affairs (IMA) in a report titled “Potential Locations for Port Development in North East Trinidad, February 1988” conducted a study of the Grand Riviere, Toco Bay and Balandra Bay areas and concluded inter alia that “Toco Bay cannot be said to possess a critical habitat.”
Nidco explained the nesting site in Toco was identified as Mission Beach which is west of the proposed port and about 500 metres away.
“And according to resident fisher-folk, turtle visits there are considered infrequent.”
Nidco added: “It should be noted further that all beach sites and bays on the north-eastern coast are considered as probable nesting sites. According to the aforementioned report by the IMA, Toco Bay which has no beaches, is considered, however, least attractive or devoid of ‘critical habitat.’”
Nidco said after studying the IMA report and the 1990 report both the ministry and Nidco concluded that Toco Bay was the appropriate location for the port and the end point of the roadway under construction from Valencia.
An application for a Certificate of Environmental Clearance was made to the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) in December 2017 and the EMA determined that an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is required for the project.
Nidco reported it secured the consultancy services of an international firm, ERM West Inc (which operates in more than 40 countries, and previously worked in this country’s energy industry) to conduct a full and encompassing EIA study of the project.
Nidco said it has begun a series of public hearings for residents in the Toco area, the first of which was held on April 12, 2019 at the Toco Regional Complex.
“The Toco port should not be viewed as an isolated, regional project, but in the wider context of this country’s attempt to diversify its economic base, and heightening the importance of its non-energy sector and improve the inter-island seabridge.”
Nidco said the history of the project dates back to the 1980s when the importance of a port located along the north-east coast was first recognised and studied.
“News reports then suggest that both sides of the parliamentary aisle were in favour of such a project. When its location was decided it was clearly established that the socio-economic benefits of the port will not be solely for the Toco area, but will spread throughout all of TT.”
Nidco reported in 1990 a team of local consultants comprising economists, engineers and environmentalists, confirmed the port’s technical and financial viability in a study “The establishment of a Multi-purpose port in the North-Eastern Region of Trinidad, and a Ferry Link NE region in Tobago.”