Pierre says Bexon flood mitigation plan was “comprehensive, scientific and not driven by political motives

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Pierre says Bexon flood mitigation plan was “comprehensive, scientific and not driven by political motives
Opposition Leader Philip J. Pierre
Opposition Leader Philip J. Pierre

STATEMENT BY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION, POLITICAL LEADER OF THE SAINT LUCIA LABOUR PARTY AND SLP SPOKESMAN ON INFRASTRUCTURE HON PHILIP J PIERRE ON BEXON / MARC FLOOD RISK MITIGATION PROGRAMME AT SLP PARTY PRESS CONFERENCE, TUESDAY JULY 11TH, 2017.

I think it is important and necessary that I place the record straight on the Bexon/Marc Flood mitigation works and the situation that existed when the Saint Lucia Labour Party left office on June 6th, 2016.

On October 2010, Hurricane Tomas, a Category 1 hurricane, passed just south of Saint Lucia and the Cul-de-Sac and Marc River valleys experienced flooding due to the extreme rainfall event. The heavy rains generated debris flows, mud slides and landslides that swept away numerous houses, buildings, bridges, roads and vehicles across the island. The Marc and Bexon areas were among the areas most affected.

The communities of Odsan, Deglos, Bexon, L’Abbayee and Ravine Poisson have been established along the Cul-de-Sac River Valley bottom, adjacent to the main highway and areas like Crown Lands, Floissac and Marc are along lateral roads such as Marc Road.

After the destruction of Hurricane Tomas the then UWP government secured a loan (Natural Disaster Management Rehabilitation and Reconstruction-Hurricane Tomas Saint Lucia) from Caribbean Development Bank originally for $48.5M to undertake the restoration of some infrastructure damaged during the storm.

The Bexon Marc Flood Mitigation Risk Reduction was part of that package. The project manager was appointed via competitive tender on 1st October 2011 when the UWP was in government. The appointment received a no objection from the Caribbean Development Bank and the terms and conditions of work of the Project Manager were agreed to by the UWP government.

On December 12th 2012 a contact for “Consultancy Services for the Hurricane Tomas Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Project-Hydraulic Assessment for Flood Risk Reduction (Bexon Marc)” was signed. This consultancy was part of the loan mentioned earlier. The consultants opined that “reducing the impacts of flooding to people, property and infrastructure in these flood affected areas will not be accomplished through simple solutions.

Reducing flood risks will require changes in regulation/ policies and enforcement and integration with structural/nonstructural measures. The ability to carry out the recommended physical works is constrained by limited fiscal resources. While some measures can likely be implemented within a year’s budgetary cycle, others may need to be implemented over several years in a phased approach”.

After an open competitive tendering process the firm of Dillon Consulting Limited, a Canadian firm with over 700 employees was awarded the contact after a no objection was received from the Caribbean Development Bank.

The Consultants presented a Flood Risk Reduction Report and Action Plan which was widely discussed with civil society including the Association of Professional Engineers of Saint Lucia, members of the affected communities and the Parliamentary Representative for Castries South East, Hon. Guy Joseph.

The Action Plan contained measures described as (a) Structural (b) Non-structural (c) Long Term Development Plans.

The Structural Measures included:
1) School site ring dyke
2) Debris Flow Barrier System at Ravine Poisson
3) Debris Flow Barrier System-Upper Marc River
4) Bank Protection Gabion Baskets /Riprap/ Bioengineering
5) Replacement at Marc Road Crossing with Single-span Street Truss Bridge
6) New Bridge south of Marc Road
7) Local Drainage Improvements
8) Increased Channel Capacities Downstream to Grande Cul-de-Sac Bay

Non-Structural Measures included:
1) Flood Early Warning System of two types institutional and Community Based
2) Improved collection of Hydrological and Meteorological Date
3) Education / Public Awareness and Preparedness
4) Rainfall Harvesting
5) Establish Riparian Setback Zone
6) Deforestation
7) Desilting/dredging and de-clogging of rivers and drains

Long term Development Plans
1) Building Codes
2) Land use/ controls
3) Insurance

A further contact for the design of three of the structural measures was signed with Dillon on 27th August, 2015. It is important to note that the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) was involved and participated at every stage of the process.

As at June 2016 Dillon Consulting was finalizing designs for three flood mitigation options.
1) The dyke berm to protect the school
2) A new bridge along the Marc Road
3) River bank protection works/Gabions or Boulder Packing Rip Rap at three locations where frequent flooding occurs. Final designs were expected by August 2016.

It is clear that the interventions recommended were from professional international engineers and were formulated after intensive detailed scientific studies, analysis and concurrence with the Caribbean Development Bank.

The Saint Lucia Labour Party government never viewed the fate of the people of Bexon and surrounding areas as a political football or opportunity to enrich certain selected contractors. The plan was comprehensive, scientific and not driven by political motives and personal ambitions.

We believe that the people of Bexon, Marc and surrounding areas should demand that their communities are respected and the genuine flood mitigation efforts that began in 2012 to alleviate their condition be continued by the UWP government.

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