President of the United Workers Party and Physical Planner/Architect, Isaac Baptiste, is challenging Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit to publish a full report and provide evidence to show why the previous location which was chosen to construct the much-talked about international airport, was not suitable.
According to Baptiste, a report by Planning and Stanley Engineering in 1998 under the then United Workers Party (UWP) administration recommended the Londonderry site for the airport and all detailed plans were approved by the International Civil Aviation Authority and the OECS Aviation Authorities based in Antigua.
The Prime Minister said recently on his weekly Anou Palay Programme that Planning and Stanley Engineering have no experience in airport development and said he suspects that, “there may be political interference in this report.”
Stanley Consultants is a global consulting engineering firm which is ranked #86 among ENR’s Top 500 Design Firms and #130 among the Top 225 International Design Firms. Stanley Consultants has over 900 members in 29 offices worldwide. ENR (Engineering News-Record) is an American weekly magazine that provides news, analysis, data and opinion for the construction industry worldwide.
Skerrit said this is the last opportunity for Dominica to have an international airport.
He said the decision to seek another location was based on the findings of a team of local experts which was set up in 2008 to review previous studies on the construction of an international airport in Dominica.
The group comprised Vincent Philbert – PS in the Ministry of Communications and Works, Lucien Blackmoore -Engineer, Wendel Lawrence, who, according to the prime minister was the manager of the UWP airport project programme, pilot Lennard Royer, Edward Lambert – National Authorising Officer, airport manager Don Corriette, Chief Physical Planner, Kelvin Rolle and St. Bernard Sebastien.
The team presented its report in 2009 after studying the Sir Alexander Gibbs Report which was produced during the Dominica Freedom Party (DFP) administration, and the Planning and Stanley Report.
“They set aside the UWP site of 1998, for a number of reasons,” the prime minister stated. “The visibility issue, massive cloud cover, it would only be…non-instrument landing and the airport would be in serious difficulty in terms of functioning because visibility would be poor. So they set aside this report and went ahead with the recommendations of Sir Alexander Gibbs in respect to the location”
Some years later, according to the prime minister, his administration contracted US firm Landrum and Brown which he described as a reputable firm, to do another study and to provide professional independent advice, devoid of politics, for the location of an international airport in Dominica.
“So they came back and they gave us a location and incidentally, it is right where Sir Alexander Gibbs indicated with a slight shift in the alignment – same place,” he stated.
However, Baptiste believes that the prime minister needs to publish the reports on which his decision is based so that they can be evaluated objectively.
“Make available the studies saying the site approved by the United Workers Party was not suitable for an international airport…that’s what he needs to do,” Baptiste told Dominica News Online (DNO) in an interview.
He contends that the Prime Minister has not published anything.
“Prime Minister of Dominica needs to make public the size, location, alignment of the airport that he proposes and show to an extent on which it is impacted Wesley,” he insists.
Baptiste said that he did property evaluation for persons whose properties will be impacted by the airport and based on where those properties are located in Wesley, he is convinced that when the airport is completed, “if they do construct along the lines that they are now talking about, Wesley will be decimated.”
“It will destroy Wesley, in terms of the removal and dislocation of properties of people and what will be left of Wesley is noise pollution, dust pollution and other pollutions…,” he stated.
Baptiste maintains that the site the Prime Minister is now referring to is not a new site.
“The Freedom Party looked at that site and they turned it down because of the impact it would have had on Wesley,” Baptiste revealed. “The United Workers Party also looked at that site and it was turned down by the government on the advice of the consultant, because of the tremendous impact it would have had on Wesley.”
Speaking on Q95’s Global View on Q last week, Former Prime Minister of Dominica, Edison James, said the relevant studies for the proposed airport in 1998 were done, 10 or 11 separate studies, which included the geotechnical studies, the environmental studies and economic studies.
“Having done that, we then engaged with the people…we arranged for an engagement with the people of Dominica,” James explained. “That meeting was done at Londonderry and there were people there who were strongly opposed to the airport.”
He continued, “People who had said they were prepared to lie down in front of the caterpillars and excavators when they started working.”
The United Workers Party (UWP) was removed from office in 2000 and replaced by a Dominica Labour Party (DLP) government.
Prime Minister Skerrit has said that work on the international airport for Dominica will begin in the first quarter of 2021.