The year 2018 will bring about multiple projects and opportunities that will not only help Saba to recover from the hurricanes, but will also assist in building stronger and to make the island more resilient for the future, Saba Commissioner Bruce Zagers announced in a provided outline.
Some of the multiple projects in the Commissioner’s portfolio, which will be started or fully executed in 2018, include the building repairs to homes, the harbour, the airport, water management, waste management and other infrastructural projects which will carried out with the financial assistance of the Netherlands.
The road to a full post-hurricane recovery will kick into high gear in the first quarter of 2018. The repairs on many homes, started in 2017, will continue during the course of this year. Homes that were damaged will be rebuilt stronger to make them more hurricane resilient. “We must make every effort to ensure that the ones who unfortunately witnessed what a severe hurricane is capable of, will now reside in a much safer home,” Zagers said.
The Commissioner announced what he called a “clean sweep,” which will allow the government to help inhabitants who are not in a position to better prepare their homes for subsequent storms. As soon as repairs to the most damaged homes have been completed, there will be a second round of repairs of homes that were not severely damaged and as well as government buildings.
The Fort Bay Harbour will probably see the biggest transformation in the coming period. Small changes were already being executed such as remodelling the customs and immigration office to make it more visitor friendly. With the new design ferry passengers will now be able to wait inside an air-conditioned building while passing through immigration and customs rather than having to wait outside in the sun or the rain. Also, US $2.5 million dollars will become available this year to implement other harbour improvements and to create a harbour master plan.
Due to the hurricanes the harbour master plan will be expedited; significant financial resources have been made available by the Dutch Government to completely transform the small pier area as it is known today. The basis of this master plan will be brought as a focal point for the new design which will emphasize on separating major commercial traffic (cargo) from touristic traffic (ferries etc.), dive boats and our local fishing boats. Dutch engineering firm Witteveen+Bos is working out this concept in detail.
During a visit to Saba in December, the engineers of Witteveen+Bos met with the local harbour stakeholders to ensure that the input of the daily users will be reflected in the design. The first concepts should be ready by the end of January. Once a final decision is made on the design, plans will be made for the tendering process and the harbour project can go on hid.
Although the airport fared much better than the harbour during the hurricanes, 2018 will still bring significant change and improvements. The planning has already started to completely resurface the runway.
Zagers explained that the runway resurfacing project will bring some inconvenience as the airport will have to be closed for fixed wing aircraft for a month, starting mid-September.
The runway will be resurfaced using concrete, which is used in St. Barths, rather than asphalt. “Using concrete has significant long term advantages over asphalt: it has a much longer lifespan of 30 to 40 years, while the materials, knowledge and equipment for maintenance are available locally.”
During the airport’s closure, provisions for additional ferry connections as well as options with the medical helicopters will be made available to ensure that connections to St. Maarten remain possible. “The free movement of persons to and from the island must continue as seamless as possible during the closure. Meetings with the relevant stakeholders are ongoing to ensure that any possible negative impact will be addressed accordingly.”
The airport terminal building will be refurbished in a separate project. Improving the arrival area, creating more dry spaces during rain and relocating the bar area will be addressed in this project, which should start during the first half of 2018. Extra parking spaces will be made opposite the existing parking lot.
Since 2016, significant progress has been made together with the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management to establish more water storage capabilities and to improve water quality. Several additional cisterns have been built and a water line from the Fort Bay to The Bottom has been installed and is operational.
A project has already started to extend the water pipe from The Bottom Hill, close to Lollipops to St. Johns and then on to Windwardside. Eventually, this project will take the water pipe to Hells Gate. There will be water filling stations in these villages.
The developments will significantly reduce the price of trucking as water distribution will be possible within the villages rather than having to truck water from Fort Bay. Extending the water line to commercial properties such as hotels is being looked into.
Not only will the trucking be cheaper but so will the water; government recently signed an agreement with AquaSab which will now be the main water provider. Water will be purchased in bulk resulting in the resale price being lower than the current price. More information about this will be released shortly.
Later this year a water bottling plant will also be realised. This will ensure that affordable quality drinking water is always available. The reverse osmosis water will be further purified and the necessary nutrients will be added to ensure that drinking water is of a high quality. Saba is receiving technical support for the pipeline and the planned water bottling plant from the Dutch water consultancy firm Vitens Evides International.
The hurricanes did significant damage to the recycling facility; however, this has presented an opportunity to bring the waste management system back into focus, to re-energise strategies and to improve the waste disposal system, stated Zagers. With financial support the current practices will be evaluated thoroughly.
Improving the equipment used to burn the non-recyclable waste will be a priority and all efforts will be made to find a new location for the burning equipment. A new recycling campaign will be launched, focusing on improvements in all steps in the chain of waste separation namely household level recycling, the collection of waste, and if possible further improvement of the final waste separation stage at the landfill. “This requires a community-wide effort. We all need to work together to establish cleaner waste management and reduce the necessity of waste burning,” said the Commissioner.
In addition to the home repairs, the harbour, airport, water projects, waste management, a large scale social housing project and a second solar park, Saba will also experience other infrastructure projects in 2018. The widening of the main roads and the strengthening of safety walls will continue throughout the year. There is also funding available to resurface side roads which will almost completely eliminate any backlog with road maintenance.
Damaged street lights will soon be repaired and street lights will be added where necessary. In addition, a project is being planned to bench the dangerous cliff at Wells Bay. This much needed project will make the Wells Bay area much safer from threats of falling rocks. The road works, additional parking and new day care buildings in St. Johns will also start this year. This much anticipated project was delayed due to the fact that additional space was necessary for the continuously growing demand in the day care centre. With the securing of the additional funding, plans can now be finalised and construction can start.
With the magnitude and number of projects that are planned for 2018, it will be a challenge finding sufficient manpower and contractors to execute everything. This challenge will ultimately result in some of these projects being finalised in 2019, said Zagers.
The Daily Herald.