“St Francis residents should just get on with their lives!”

By Bev Mortimer:

St Francis residents, anxious to know the fate of Thyspunt and whether to sell up and leave or to stay, should just carry on with their lives as long delays – up to three years are anticipated.

So says Deidre Herbst Eskom’s senior environmental manager in an extensive interview with St Francis Chronicle. She was referring to the frustrations of several local home owners and businesses who are living with uncertainty about their future here and who are upset about the continued delays in the government’s final announcement. Some of the area’s residents want to know the future of the area real soon so they can plan to put their properties and businesses on the market.

“The announcement of a go ahead or not for the Thyspunt site will be delayed if there are further objections or court cases. The latter could stop the process for up to three years,” she says, adding that residents must realise that the more objections, the longer the delay.

Complaints about a road and delays in negotiating a consultants’ contract have led to the delay in enabling the long awaited second draft EIR report on Thyspunt to be released to the public. Herbst advises this report is now only expected to be released in about October this year.

This effectively means that the South African government’s announcement of whether it will allow the construction of a nuclear-1 power plant at Thyspunt, 10 kms from St Francis, to be built will also be delayed further. Last month it was reported that the government’s announcement will be made available in the first quarter of next year. Now it appears this announcement will only be made after September 2013.

Revealing this, Herbst says members of the combined Oyster Bay community had objected that the proposed road to Thyspunt will split the two communities from the village and Umazamawehthu in half. The original planned route would also be too close to the school, Herbst advises, adding that this problem had not been addressed adequately in initial EIA reports.

“As the road is moving there is a need for ornithologists, flora and fauna specialists, including botanists and archaeologists, to do a walk about in the vicinity of the proposed new road siting in order to prove the suitability of this new siting.”
Last month GIBB secured the contract again to act as Eskom’s independent environmental consultant following the expiry of its initial contract in October last year. This enables GIBB to continue with the EIA process. Herbst says it took time to renegotiate a contract with GIBB and this has also led to the release of the 2nd draft report being delayed.

If the report can be released by October 2012 the public has 45 days to comment (and there is Christmas holidays and parliamentary recess until February), Eskom can submit the report with public comments to the government in about April next year. The government has almost four months in which to come to a decision and can request more information, details and studies that can delay the process further, Hebst further advises.

Asked whether there was any chance the plant could be built in Coega instead of Thyspunt, Herbst reveals this area had been studied in the1980s but was found to contain a seismic fault and there were other sensitivities. The fault excluded this area from the list of possible sites. She adds that Eskom then turned its attention again to Coega in 2010 following requests from the public. It was realised that it would take up to 10 years to glean all the information needed about this site to bring it on par with the standard of information already held for the three sites (Thyspunt, Bantams Kilp and Duynefontein).

Herbst also mentioned that since Thypsunt was chosen by Eskom as the preferred site, anti nuclear activity in the Western Cape has dwindled.

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