Blackadore Caye’s 2nd Public Consultation For Development: Reaching A Balance for Belize

Last night, at the San Pedro High School, the Belize Department of the Environment held the 2nd Environmental Impact Assessment Public meeting for the proposed project at Blackadore Caye, Belize.

June 26, 2016:  Two additions have been made.  1. A rendering provided of the new Blackadore Plan and 2. A memo from the Government of Belize regarding public vs private rights to water and beach.

Blackadore Caye (just a quick refresh) is the long slender (beautiful) sandbar that is located west of Ambergris, almost exactly between the us and the mainland.  It was added, just earlier this year, to the Hol Chan National Marine Reserve as a conservation zone.  You can see it below as Zone V (land is in lavender).


And you can see it here in lots of photos that I took in May – gorgeous and seriously barren.  A sand bar covered in grass and crabs.

grassland Blackadore-4

Leonardo DiCaprio and investors purchased the island in 2007.  Just this last year, after numerous rumors of a Four Seasons Resort, a development plan was announced at a January meeting with the public in San Pedro.

The question and answer portion of that meeting became quite heated around the issue of over-the-water structures and the restricted use, by sport and commercial fishermen, of the flats around the caye.

Would they be run off if Beyonce was visiting?

Afterwards, the Blackadore team set out to meet with the public (the “stakeholders”) and to re-work their plan to take into account the concerns.

Between, Jan and August of 2016, the developers, engineers and scientists met with as many as 5,000 members of the public (over 60% of them in San Pedro) and came back with a amended plan and a new presentation.

Last night’s presentation was BY FAR the most comprehensive, thoughtful and impressive plan I’ve seen presented.

EIA Meeting Blackadore Caye San Pedro BelizeNote:  I have been to a handful of EIA public consultations in the past…both here on San Pedro and in the south, for the Norwegian Cruise Lines/Harvest Caye project – the “Nature Park”.  The last one left me feeling murderous.

Last night’s team (four speakers) ran through the Blackadore project:

Here were the highlights:

  • There will be a 44 unit resort, 36 villas and 1 club house on the 104 acre caye (and almost 3 over the water acres) – only 25% of the caye will be developed.
  • The large outrigger structure (over-the-water) has been removed and replaced with 33% less space.  Here’s a picture of the previous plan.  Eek.


The new rendering of the plan.

The new rendering of Blackadore Caye Belize
  • The fishing grounds around the caye were mapped out and monitored for use by fishermen.   In the new plan, the two docks will now be placed over, what they deem to be, low impact areas (sparsely populated by wildlife including algae and grasses).
  • They will put $400mm BZD into this project over the next 20 years, provide 400 construction jobs and up to 1000 permanent jobs for Belizeans from entry level to technical jobs (with training) and management positions
  • They will NOT have Blackadore tour guides but will hire shops from Ambergris Caye as necessary.
  • There will be an education center open to the public on the arrival jetty
  • They are going to incredible measures (and expense) to make this project a model of sustainable development for the world.  They are going to do construction in phases so that species can move (or be moved…plants by a “fauna specialist”) and adapt, they will minimize dredging (and corral sediment with curtains and baffles) and use existing sugar barge channels to move building supplies, they will prefabricate as much as possible on the mainland, they will source all the materials they can from Belize (looking for “green” and sustainable partners) – from lumber to gravel to cement.  They will use solar energy, composting toilets – there will be no waste water, they will recycle or ban plastics – in fact, they want zero waste overall.  They even considered noise and aesthetic pollution (I didn’t know there was such a thing)

Those were my main takeaways from the presentation.  Things got a lot more detailed (and quite a bit more heated) during the question and answer portion.

There were a handful of tour guides and fly fishermen who spoke and they were quite clear about their objective – NO OVER THE WATER STRUCTURES.  None.  The caye is yours, your project sounds great, but do not build over our waters.   ESPECIALLY in the Hol Chan Marine Reserve.  It is illegal.

And will set a bad precedent for other developers.

Here is a press release from the government regarding the Belizean peoples’ right to the seabed and the beachfront released early this year – “Queen’s Land” – from the Minstry of Natural Resources and Immigration (strange combo?).

66 Queen's Land Law Press Release

You can see their point.

The Blackadore team, later joined by the Mayor of San Pedro, Danny Guerrero and the Minister of Tourism and Area Representative, Manuel Heredia, fired back.

  • Protected areas do not mean preservation.  The government was aware that this caye (and others) were private land when they expanded Hol Chan…they knew that at some point there would be development.  This is the best case scenario.
  • The new over-the-water plan has been minimized but to be economically viable, they stressed, they need these structures.  They are spending exponentially more than any other construction project this country has ever seen – to minimize harm, to better the island (prevent erosion and renew plant life) and to make the entire project environmentally sound
  • We must weigh the value of Blackadore as a flyfishing area vs. the economic needs of an entire country

The ultimate point was that there needs to be a BALANCE – positive vs. negative for the people of San Pedro and for all of Belize.  Unemployment in Belize is over 29% and for women and youth, it’s about 35%.  This is the biggest project that Belize has ever seen – 1000 jobs at the peak.  We can’t just think of ourselves.

While all resorts on Ambergris Caye have harmed our island (Heredia), this plan is looking to  better Blackadore Caye.

The mayor argued that this is not just about flyfishing, we need to look at the bigger picture and perhaps “clean up OUR act”.  Ambergris Caye has enough of her own issues:  traffic, trash, over-building, erosion.  Perhaps we should focus there first.

Maybe, he suggested somewhat jokingly, we shouldn’t rebuild any over-the-water structures like bars and dive shops here on Ambergris Caye.

My opinion?  This is arguably the best (and largest) investment opportunity the country has ever seen.  I do understand that this is in a reserve – but as was mention by Minister Heredia, they knew that when they expanded Hol Chan.  And they always expected development.

A tour guide brought up an important point – an old Belizean saying “if snake bite wen you see lizard you run”.  If you’ve been bitten by a snake, when you see a lizard you are going to run.

Basically, we don’t trust outside developers on this island for good reason. We have been burned by half-done, half-ass constructions in the past.  Some boiled down to blatant ponzi schemes.

One only needs to take a ride across the lagoon from San Pedro town to see many crumbling messes.  These “investors” came to make money…only.  They didn’t care at all about Belize, the people or the environment.

Yes, Blackadore needs to make economic sense but they are also planning something that will be an example to the world…and certainly put Belize (and their project) in the spot light for years to come.   I think when you look at balance, the positives here far outweigh the negatives.

In an ideal world, there would be no over-the-water structures but they have already amended their plan to reduce the footprint.  They are working hard to show that they are willing to work with the community.

As for setting a precedent, we can only hope that the next developers will be half this conscientious about our environment.  Hopefully this raises our standards.   This is, to me, as good as it gets.  And hopefully, we can integrate some of their finds on Ambergris Caye.  We could use help with things like erosion, waste treatment and recycling.

But all of this DOES make me wonder,  why did the government approve the Hol Chan expansion if they knew this was coming down the pike?

I’ll leave it to my buddy Teddy Roosevelt to summarize way better than I could.  Dramatic, I know, but true:

“The nation behaves well if it treats the natural resources as assets which it must turn over to the next generation increased and not impaired in value. Conservation means development as much as it does protection.”

-Theodore Roosevelt

Here is the list of EIAs including the new Blackadore plan and also one for a waste treatment plant for North Ambergris Caye – that also appears to be in the Marine Reserve.

The final decision will be made on August 31st – you can ask any questions or add any comments at any time to:

  • SPmQQse

    the title……if anything.. incorrect……

    the investors….will try to be….
    ”Reaching A Balance, for their profit margins” not one bit for belize….
    they , are here to make money…nothing more.
    only in belize….do so-called…”conservation zones”….have mega resort developments…smack-dab-…in the middle of them.
    only in belize….. ”Protected areas do not mean preservation”.
    . …….
    more dredging….and in a ….so called…”.conservation zone”….gimmy a break.
    curtains and baffles—proven fail.
    ”all resorts on Ambergris Caye have harmed our island (Heredia)”…..
    so…then it makes perrrrrfect sense…to do a mega project…<===sarcasm…!
    [absolutely ridiculous.]
    ''In an ideal world, there would be no over-the-water structures''…..and belize has a choice… be a country,,….which chooses to be ''ideal''…rather than subservient to outsiders,greed……. despite the corrupt political leaders.
    ''weigh the value''….gimmy a break…….
    how `bout , weigh the value of a country's integrity, as steward of the ecology.
    belize…where the fox….runs the hen-house.

    • Jim

      Moose I would have been disappointed if you weren’t the first comment.

      1st. of course they hope to make money. There is nothing wrong with making money and NOTHING would progress if there wasn’t the incentive of making money.

      2nd “only in belize….do so-called…”conservation zones”….have mega resort developments…smack-dab-…in the middle of them.
      only in belize….. ”Protected areas do not mean preservation”.
      Well Belize could have taken the Caye by eminent domain and then it could not have been developed but they couldn’t afford that so they knew there would have to be some over the water development. Again, “Property Rights” you seem to have a problem with that concept.

      3rd “The ultimate point was that there needs to be a BALANCE – positive vs. negative for the people of San Pedro and for all of Belize. Unemployment in Belize is over 29% and for women and youth, it’s about 35%. This is the biggest project that Belize has ever seen – 1000 jobs at the peak. We can’t just think of ourselves.”
      The unemployment rate and the rate of poverty just can not be ignored by the government. It is easy for you (I’m making an assumption here) to make judgments when you are comfortable and have food on the table. It is a different case if you are a struggling Belizean like many are. This appears to be good compromise for everyone which will help raise the standard of living and education for a good number of Belizeans if it goes as planned.
      Have you ever considered moving to a desolate Island? You could buy the whole Island and set most of the rules which would make you happy or maybe not. :>) There would always be Climate Change or the sands blowing across the ocean or something to complain about.

      • SPmQQse

        if your enjoyment offfffffgfrbrf65t life hinges on my commenting….you may want to check your life, and possibly make adjustments.
        and besides….who cares what you or many others, think about my comments………….b/c it sure aint me..

        • Hypocrite, Belize Me

          So comical, no building over the water they cry. Let’s see, what new projects are currently underway that have no EIA and are being built over the water with limited or no permits or building standards??? Oh yeah, all the docks and structures destroyed by Hurricane Earl in and around SP and CC.

          What a bunch of hypocrites who would point the long finger of irresponsible development at these developers/investors who are actually preserving most of the island and planting mangroves (what!?, that right replanting mangroves to protect the natural shoreline and serve as fish nursery habitat). While, some of these same complaining guides and tour operators now rush to dredge and place piles/piers to rebuild poorly constructed docks and buildings over the water with no regard for the habitat they claim to want to protect, all so they can stay in business.

          Oh and who owns the property over the water these SP businesses are building on, not them, the people of BZ own it “Queen’s Land”, all 66 feet from the high water level out to sea. What right do they have to build over the water without approval from the GOB? None, yet that is business as usual in SP and CC because it is the tourist $$ who feed the machine and politicians.

          It is all about a balance as Jim pointed out. You can not stop development so why not do it right like this Blackadore Project? If they do nothing Blackadore will simply disappear back into the ocean.

          Meanwhile, if you want a cause to rant about, why not look in you own backyard and march against the local tour operators destroying fish habitat with their new docks and structures over the water?

          • SPmQQse

            yes…even the mentally challenged can comment.
            as much as it’s hard to disagree with your ”over the water” point…..
            new docks, replacing old docks:-neither…
            are/were in a so-called…conservation/protected area.
            apparently …from photos provided by the blackadore group….they are already building sea-walls… a practice condemned by international study org’s, on beach/land erosion.
            ”queen’s land” all 66 ft of it……
            is owned by ”the queen”….
            hint===> [the clue-is in the name]
            you want balance….gimmy a break..
            in 10 more years…. the sanpoedanno/a will own nothing…while the foreigners continue to rape the belize tourist bizz cash cow.
            actually you ‘can’ stop development….that ,would be easy…..but
            what would be even better than stopping development…. just stop foreigners from developing the Belizean tourism bizz..and allow beliseans to develop their own country, their own Belizean tourism…..
            ”belizean style”
            yah gets what yah votes for …..folks.

          • Moose Fish

            Good one, Moose and glad to hear your fish are doing well. Probably no dredging or pile driving going on there. When is the last time Belizeans developed a island or project this size for tourism (other than Grand Caribe and associated resorts)? Harvest Caye? – no, Caye Chapel? – no…
            No one is stopping Belizeans from developing and as shown by GC, it can be done well by Belizeans.

            And just to keep you honest, “By powers of the National Lands Act (Revised Edition 2003), the Lands and Surveys Department has jurisdiction over the 66 feet reserve and the seabed (National Land). Although the use of the seabed and the 66 feet reserve are regulated under the National Lands Act, Section 6 Clause 1, the construction of over-water structures on the seabed falls under the Belize Building Act, Chapter 131 of the Laws of Belize Revised Edition 2003, which is implemented by the Central Building Authority.” – i.e., the ‘Queens Land”. National Land of BZ not tour operators and plenty of Belizeans also feeding at the tourist trough – nothing wrong with that. A rising tide lifts all boats.

          • SPmQQse

            ”when was the last time”..yadayada…..who cares…..redundant.
            ” has jurisdiction”….is not ”ownership”
            i have issues with GC’s owners/investors practices too…
            like , destroying the natural ecology of that whole lagoon…[dredging]
            to the east…and the robbing of the lagoon side waterfront, of private residences…….by dredging/landfilling in front of the owner’s properties …damaging their lands…all ,with the authorities permission.
            totally….. ”shameful” .!!!
            really…an old worn-out. new-england saying….[tide/rise]…geeessszzzz

          • SPmQQse

            the fish, in my back yaad…..are just fine…..!!!

      • SPmQQse

        hmmmmmmm…i have to wonder… you have a paying job…in belize….that a born Belizean…could be paid to do….?

        • Jim

          Glad to answer. NO! I am a PR and I was volunteering on two positions which only a couple of Belizeans in all of Belize met the qualifications and at one of those positions which was engineering in nature I trained locals in the basics. Which they have thanked me for several times. I have employed several Belizeans at different times though over the years. In addition my wife has taught on college level at night at the High School with no pay. We both have no need to work anymore but enjoy making life better for those willing to put forth the effort.
          So there are your answers Mr./Ms. Moose. I’m I getting to you this morning? Ha Ha. Now tell us a little about your self righteous existence. Take care and have a good day.

          • SPmQQse

            seriously…since the LGBT ruling…all kinda guys seem interested in my gender…. wtf…?
            pls. have other thoughts.
            good to know you endeavor to assist Belizeans…rather than like many…take.
            as for.. self-righteous…..i am way to good to be self-righteous.

        • Can I call a ‘No Personal attacks’ rule? Am I allowed?

          • SPmQQse

            it’s only funny, within the boundaries of this jim guy, being wrong.
            [qed:- not-so-much]
            as for personal attacks…wtf…i don’t care.. i get-em each and every day…from foreigners, whom i couldn’t care less about.

    • i didn’t say it had been REACHED…this is, as described by the DOE, a reach for balance.

      • SPmQQse

        yes, i know.