The Coastal Zone Management Board on Wednesday approved a land and water permit that clears the way for a controversial new interactive dolphin attraction at the Coral World Marine Park.
The CZM permit request, first submitted in April 2012, called for the construction of a two-acre dolphin habitat.
While supporters have touted the potential for economic growth through the attraction, those in opposition to the permit have expressed concern to the environmental impact such a project would inflict on Water Bay as well as to the humane treatment of the dolphins.
Board member Sarah “Peggy” Simmonds questioned Coral World management on the potential loss of sea grass and existing coral, as well as her personal concerns as to the need for a potential expansion of the space currently utilized by the park’s sea lion exhibit.
In response, Coral World cited the 90 percent survival rate of worldwide coral transplants in larger coral heads and the minimal shading that would potentially affect the sea grass. The some 250 coral heads in question are estimated to be of softball size or less.
CZM board member Karl R. Purcell asked if the environmental impact might be diminished if the scope and area of the attraction were made smaller, but Coral World architect Brian Emerich pointed out that the exclusive dolphin visitation and breeding area was intended to be larger than required.
Coral World owner Trudi Prior said, “We are excited to have surmounted this hurdle and will certainly address each and every issue brought forth by the commission. We are truly excited to get started.”
A roll call vote of the board approved the Coral World permit, four to one, with only Purcell voting against it. Board members Simmonds, A. Winton Adams, Richard G. Brown and Chairman Austin “Babe” Monsanto voted for the measure.
Other CZM board action included approving permits to modify the construction timetable at parcel No. 14 in Estate Smith Bay. The new project includes 90 parking spaces, a gatehouse, bath house and restaurant concession building.
The board also approved a permit by Dopetri Inc. for the continued use and rental of submerged land areas at parcel 44 Estate Crown Bay.