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Feb 26, 2020

A Closer Look at Riversdale’s Black Creek

Today, News Five went south to follow up the issue of a road being built in a creek in Riversdale.  Residents of that southern community, located off the Placencia peninsula, say that a developer pushed a road through a creek that provides critical nursery for fish. The developer seemingly heard the residents’ complaints and attempted to remove the section of the road that was built directly on top of the creek. But during a visit today, residents pointed out that further clearing is needed for the creek to flow.  Here’s a report.


Andrea Polanco, Reporting

The Black Creek north of Riversdale community is stagnant. The murky water is not flowing and the stench of the dark creek fills the air. A pile of sand has backed up the flow of the water. A couple days ago, residents were able to walk right over this creek because this dirt road was built right through it. Logs from the area were reportedly used to fill the creek to facilitate the road. But when residents raised their concerns, the developer returned and cut out the chunk of the road that passes through the creek. So, today we can only go so far – but as you can see the road continues over the other side. Residents say that this action isn’t enough because a section of the road is still sitting in the creek.


Hector Martinez

Hector Martinez, Fisherman

“Whoever is building this road, they just fill the creek. They just dammed the creek. They just basically put, I see a culvert here, because they opened it. But I see this culvert and it doesn’t take an engineer to figure out that is not the proper way to do it. It was still dammed because the water and on the east side of the creek was very stagnant and it is still stagnant because now it is also closed on the beach side.  A couple days ago you could just walk and you could actually just drive across. Because the road was right across the creek and because this has been on social media and the news it seems they came in a rush and kinda just remove and take out that culvert and half open the creek because it still needs to open like another twenty-five feet . So, I am guessing about another twenty feet of the creek is still closed.”


For the seventy-five residents in this area this creek is a part of their lives. Because it serves as breeding ground for fish, it’s important to the fishing industry and the wider peninsula.


Hector Martinez

“This creek is a spawning site for a lot of species of fish; like the tarpon; big snook like twenty-twenty-five pounds; permits and bone fish and other species that don’t necessary go into the creek but they stay at the bar mouth and they find feed and you also have Goliath Grouper and you have crocodiles.”


Andrea Polanco

“What’s your fear for the fishing industry, here?”


Hector Martinez

“Well, for the fishing industry it will start depleting the fish stocks that we the fishermen depend on; but also that the tour-guide depend on like the tarpon and game fish because we make a living off these fish. So, this is bad for the environment and the fishermen. So, it is a major concern for us.  As you can see walking on the beach, it is all sand so when it rains sand makes its way out to the peninsula and it provides sand for the entire peninsula, actually. So, it is bad in so many different ways.”


Businesswoman and Placencia resident Magda Morales was in Riversdale today to offer her support to the community. She believes that building a road through the creek is not the answer for the developers who want to access their property.


Magda Morales

Magda Morales, Placencia Resident/Tourism Stakeholder

“I don’t live in this community but I surely and truly support what this community is fighting for because I deal with tourism also and we need our fish stocks so that we can have for food and we need it for our tour guides; that is why people come here for. We are not really against development but it should be done the proper way. I am asking the Government; the Department of Environment; before you issue any permits whatsoever, you need to come and check and see what is going on here.  I think that before they did anything and put a culvert, the proper way to do it is to build a bridge so that they have the natural flow of the water.”


Roy Castellanos also lives in Riversdale. He knows this area well – so how did this happen under his nose? He says that works started about a month ago in the general area but he didn’t expect that a road would be built through the creek. He also expected that the project developers would have consulted with the community.


Roy Castellanos

Roy Castellanos, Fisherman

“I never think that they would have crossed the creek because they were usually cleaning the south part of it so I didn’t think they would have gone that far. But I understand afterwards that one of the guys told me that they are going all the way to Maya King, south Stann Creek. So, to me who did this they just don’t care.”


Andrea Polanco

“Roy, do you think this could have been avoided, had the community been consulted?”


Roy Castellanos

“Yeah, that is the next thing. We were never consulted. It could have been avoided because we would have never agreed. Most of us wouldn’t have agreed for them to bruk up the mangrove and thing.”


Long time resident of Riversdale, Dennis Lampella did a walkthrough of the area with us. He points us out that the developers should have done an assessment of the area.


Dennis Lampella

Dennis Lampella, Resident Riversdale

“If you are gonna do a project like this the proper way, and then you were going to install a bridge and culvert and so forth. You are supposed to do a river study measuring the flow rate and this would take – you have a dry season and wet season – so it would take a year or so to do flow rate studies on this river, so that you know exactly what kind of bridge and waterway to construct there and obviously this wasn’t done.  This one here was like a cloak and dagger affair, you didn’t know what was happening and there were all kinds of signs of no trespassing and so forth so people were probably afraid to come in here.”


Hector Martinez says that they are not saying no to development but they but the community believes that their livelihoods and the environment shouldn’t have to be compromised.


Hector Martinez

“We cannot stop development. We are not against development but it has to be done the proper way when you take land like this that is in its natural state and you start development on it without looking at the negative effects that it will cause to the environment. North of Riversdale, most of it is all swamp land and to the back of it a lot of swamps and a lot of mangroves.”


Earlier this afternoon, the men gathered their shovels and travelled up the beach to take some action. They cleared out the sand that had backed up and prevented the water from flowing.  As soon as they shoveled the sand away and created a clear path, the black waters rushed out to the sea. Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.


This morning, we reached out to C.E.O. Percival Cho, who confirmed that the Department of Environment is aware of the issue. He informed us that the department has been investigating the matter. We were passed on to that officer, but we weren’t able to get a comment from him as he informed us that he was in a meeting, but when we called back this evening, we didn’t get an answer. We’ll attempt to get an official comment from the Department of Environment for Thursday’s newscast.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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