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NRCA GUIDELINES 
 
 
for the 
 
 
CONSTRUCTION,  MAINTENANCE 
 
 
and 
 
 
MONITORING 
 
 
of 
 
UNDERWATER PIPELINES & CABLES 
 
 
in the 
 
 
COASTAL ZONE 
 
 
  prepared for
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
NATURAL RESOURCES CONSERVATION AUTHORITY 
by Cowell L. Lyn 
 
           
           
           
           
           
           
           
           
           
           
           
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
1. INTRODUCTION 
 
1.1 NRCA's Mandate. 
    By legislation passed in Parliament in April 1991, government of Jamaica has endowed the NRCA with wide-ranging general powers to manage and protect the country's natural resources, and particularly to institute appropriate Per-mitting and Licencing procedures designed to ensure that due consideration is given to conservation and environmental protection throughout the planning and implementation stages of development projects. 
     
1.2 The Purpose of This Document. 
    In order to be able to more efficiently and effectively fulfill its mandate, the Authority intends to publish a series of Guidelines and Standards which will be made available to other Government of Jamaica agencies and to private interests, including potential investors in the various industrial sectors, to inform them of the relevant obligations that will have to be satisfied in order for them to obtain the construction permits and operating licences from NRCA that are required by law. 
     
1.3 The Specific Types of Facilities Covered by These Guidelines. 
    This document offers guidance on the permitting process, and the engineering aspects, of projects involving the presence of pipelines and cables in the coastal zone -guidance that is intended to eliminate or mitigate the potentially harmful impacts that installation and operation of such elements could have upon the marine environment.
    The more common types of pipelines and cables that will be dealt with are:
      n pipelines for fuel oil and other petroleum products 

      n sewage effluent pipelines 

      n freshwater pipelines 

      n telecommunications cables 

      n electricity cables 
       

2. THE COASTAL ZONE 
 
2.1 Definition of the Coastal Zone 
    There is no single all-purpose definition of the coastal zone that is internationally current. Definitions cover spatial areas ranging from relatively narrow marginal strips of land and sea, up to broad concepts encompassing even the watershed areas which drain directly to the sea as well as the entire marine area from the shoreline out to the edge of the continental shelf.
    The working definition used by NRCA for the Jamaican coastal zone is the area of sea and seafloor extending from the high water mark out to the edge of the island shelf. 
2.2 The Importance of the Coastal Zone 
    The coastal zone is ecologically and economically precious to Jamaica:
      it provides seafood habitat; 

      contains elements essential for shoreline stability and flood control; 

      provides feasible locations for ports and other vital industrial installations; 
      offers natural resources that enhance recreational/tourism use. 
         
    However, in Jamaica, as in many other developing countries, the quality of the natural resources of some coastal zone areas is being increasingly degraded due to high population pressure and intensified usage by industrial, commercial and recreational interests. 
         
2.3 Relevant Ecosystems and Other Resources of the Coastal Zone 
      The important natural ecosystems and other resources of the coastal zone may be categorized as follows: coral reefs, seagrass, coastal wetlands, muddy and sandy bottoms, rocky coasts, heritage sites. 

      These will be further described as follows: 

      2.3.1 Coral Reefs 

      Coral reefs are tropical, shallow water ecosystems that typically consist of carbonate rock with interspersions of rubble and sand. Growth of corals requires clear, warm, aerated and nutrient-poor conditions.Coral reefs perform many critical environmental functions: 

         
          Their structure allows them to withstand and dissipate strong wave action, thus protecting land, islands, and beaches from wave damage and shoreline erosion. 

          They provide habitat for animals and plants thereby accumulating nutrients for rather complex food webs. 

          Coral reefs have the highest reported species diversity of any marine ecosystem, thus they play a substantial role in the preservation of global biodiversity. 

          Some medicinal drugs and other natural products can be derived from coral reef organisms. 
           

      2.3.2 Seagrass 

      Seagrass is a group of vascular plants adapted to the marine environment. Some species are also able to live in freshwater. Seagrasses are biologically productive and serve as food for manatees, sea turtles and certain waterfowl. Seagrass beds serve as nurseries for commercial fish. 
       

      2.3.3 Coastal Wetlands 

      Wetlands are transitional areas between terrestrial and marine systems, in which the water table is usually at or near the surface, or the land is covered by shallow water. Coastal wetlands act as a buffer between land and sea in a number of ways, such as protecting the land from sea storms. Wetlands are nutrient-rich, provide protective habitat, and are productive nursery areas for fish and shrimp. 

      In regard to vegetation, the marine wetlands around Jamaica's coastline usually contain seagrass beds and varieties of mangroves. 

      The word "mangroves" refers either to the constituent plants of a tropical intertidal forest community, or to the community itself. Many mangrove trees can grow in both saltwater and brackish environments. 

      Mangroves provide habitat for many terrestrial and aquatic animals and serve as temporary habitat for spawning, nursery and feeding. They are important in the preservation of biological diversity for many species of plants and animals. Mangrove forests protect coastal areas against erosion and mangrove vegetation filters and purifies water. 
       

      2.3.4 Muddy and Sandy Bottoms 

      These ecosystems are constituted by fine muddy or coarser sandy sediments overlain permanently or temporarily by water. The bulk of these sediments is derived from rivers, bedrock and reefs. The composition of the sediment that is eroded transported and deposited in the coastal zone can be further modified by inputs of organic matter contributed by adjacent wetlands. 

      Muddy and sandy areas serve as nursery grounds for rapidly growing juveniles of many valuable fishery stocks, particularly in shallow water by offering conditions such as reduced predation and greater food availability. 
       

      2.3.5 Rocky Coasts 

      Rock commonly forms the coastline wherever there is little sediment inflow, and wherever the onshore elevation is relatively high and wave action strong. Shoreline rocks and boulders are sometimes heavily colonized by large algae. 

      Rocky coasts provide environmental goods and services and perform important biological functions such as: 
       

        Provide surfaces for attachment of productive marine algae and filter-feeding invertebrates such as oysters; 
        Offer feeding or breeding sites for many rare, endangered or protected sea-birds; 
        Help dissipate wave energy and thus protect shore sediments and soils from erosion by sea. 
         
3. GUIDELINES FOR PRELIMINARY PLANNING 
 
    The planning for a project is usually carried out in two distinct stages, viz: i). preliminary studies; and ii). detailed design. 

    This chapter offers general guidelines in relation to preliminary planning for the installation of pipelines and cables in the coastal zone. 

    Guidelines for detailed design will be presented in a later section.

 

    3.1 The Objective of Preliminary Studies

    The objective of preliminary studies is to identify possible sites/routes for the pipeline or cable, and to try to find out as much as possible about the key engineering and environmental issues associated with each possibility. The purpose is to develop clear bases for comparative judgements and evaluations, leading up to selection of a preferred site/route that is technically, economic-ally and environmentally feasible.

    3.2 Screening of Possible Sites/Routes for Pipelines and Cables 

    The screening that is usually done during preliminary studies hopefully will result in the identification of a number of alternative site locations and routes that are potentially viable, when considered in light of appropriate technical and environmental criteria. 

    In identifying possible sites/routes, it is recommended that an environmental screening checklist be used. The checklist given in Table 1 below, highlights the typical environmental concerns which should be taken into account in the siting/routing of pipelines or cables in the coastal zone.

 
 
 
 
 
 
Table 1 
General Environmental Screening Considerations for Site Selection and Route Evaluation for Installation of Pipelines and Cables.
  ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 
AREAS of CONCERN SCREENING CONSIDERATIONS 

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Route Alignment  Choose routes that will have the least negative impacts upon critical habitats or spawning grounds; migration routes; aquatic vegetation; threatened, rare or endangered species. 

Avoid passing through coral reefs. 

Avoid passing through existing or proposed marine parks, dive sites, community bathing beaches. 

Avoid passing through locations of archaelogical, historical, cultural or paleontological interest.

Shoreline Stability 
 
Avoid locations where the shoreline is undergoing erosion, accretion, progradation. 

(Wherever shorelines are unstable, buried pipelines/cables could subsequently become exposed, or more heavily over-burdened than anticipated, leading to disruption).

Seismicity  Avoid sites that are close to known active geological faults. 

(If pipelines/cables are located near to active geological faults there will be increased risk of disruption due to earthquake)
 

Bathymetry  What are the natural seafloor gradients? 

(Uneven, steeply-sloping seafloors can give rise to integrity and stability problems for pipelines and cables laid thereon).

Seabed Soils  What is the nature of existing seafloor soils, origin of the superficial deposits? 

How deep to bedrock? 

Is the material of a type that would present extraordinary difficulties for trenching and burial of pipelines or cables in the nearshore area? 

(The answers to the above questions will be very important in determining whether it will be technically and economically feasible to bury portions of the pipeline or cable)

Wind, Waves, Currents Is there on-going shifting of seafloor sediments and seabed contours, due to strong wave action and bottom currents? 

(The degree of exposure to strong wave and current action can be a very important factor in site/route selection for pipelines or cables in the coastal zone, as under such conditions extra engineering measures will have to be applied in order to preserve integrity.

 
 
 
 
 
3.3 Typical Environmental Impacts from Installation and Operation of Some Common Types of Pipelines and Cables in the Coastal Zone 
 
    The next step in the process of preliminary planning, after identification of possible sites/routes, will be to analyse and compare the main advantages and disadvantages of each potentially viable site/route. From this process, a preferred site/route will be identified, one that is satisfactory in terms of the critical technical and environmental considerations. 
    In evaluating alternative sites/routes, the potential impacts upon the biologi-cal, physical and cultural environments during construction as well as during operation, should be compared. Alternative sites or routes can also be assessed on the basis of minimizing or eliminating potential impacts by use of acceptable mitigation techniques. 
 

    3.3.1 Impacts during Construction. 

    It is almost inevitable that there will be some damaging impact upon the coastal zone environment during installation of pipelines or cables. The de-gree of impact will mainly depend upon such important factors as: the type and size of the pipelines or cables; whether buried or laid on the surface; types of plant and equipment and the installation techniques used. The follow-ing are some typical construction impacts that developers must strive to avoid or minimize or mitigate: 

     
      damage/destruction of fisheries resources, seagrass, coral, mangroves; 

      temporary or even permanent displacement of other site users; 

      noise and congestion from construction activities. 
       

    Project Sponsors are advised that as a prerequisite before granting the necessary Construction Permits, NRCA will have to be satisfied that: the least damaging approaches will be taken; that appropriate monitoring and mitiga-tion measures will be implemented during construction; and that in the overall, the anticipated economic and social benefits will outweigh whatever costs may be incurred due to temporary or permanent damage to the existing environmental resources of the coastal zone. 
     

    3.3.2 Impacts during Operation

    Table 2 below indicates some of the more damaging types of environmental effects that operation of some common types of pipelines and cables can cause in the coastal zone.

 
 
 
 
Table 2  Some Typical Negative Environmental Impacts from Operation of Pipelines and Cables in the Coastal Zone.
  ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 

Type of Pipeline or Cable SOME TYPICAL NEGATIVE ENVIRONMENTAL (by function) IMPACTS DURING OPERATION 

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Sewage Outfalls If the effluent being discharged should contain excessive levels of pollutants, this could cause serious eutrophication in the receiving waterbody if the waterbody does not have the capacity to handle the inflow of pollutants. 

Eutrophication leads to damage/destruction of existing fisheries resources, seagrass, coral, mangroves. 

To avoid such disastrous consequences, sewage effluent must be ade-quately treated prior to discharge, and outfall pipelines must be taken to termination points where the discharge plume will be effectively dispersed without causing damage to marine ecosystems. 

Pipelines for oil and other petroleum products Spillages are virtually inevitable, most commonly through accidental damage to pipelines, or faulty procedures in coupling/uncoupling hoses for ship-to-shore transfer of products. 

Spilt oil can cause serious damage by smothering marine ecosystems. Appropriate contingency provisions must be made to ensure that an adequate emergency res ponse capability is maintained at the site to deal with oil spillages. 
 

Power Station Cooling water Pipelines The elevated temperature of cooling water discharge plumes  can make this type of effluent damaging to temperature-sensitive marine ecosystems, e.g. coral reefs. 

In order to obtain NRCA approval for installation of cooling water pipes, it will be necessary for Developers to satisfy NRCA that the proposed discharge plume will not impact negatively upon any downstream marine ecosystems. Sea-chests, and the ends of intake pipes must be properly screened so that small fish are not sucked into cooling-water systems. 
 

Power and Telecommunications cables Cables which are oil-cooled can cause environmental damage should they be accidentally damaged. Apart from this, if cables are adequately buried they should have no significant operational impact in passing through the coastal zone 
 
 
 
 
3.4 Sources of Information for Preliminary Studies 
 
    At the very start of the planning process, the Developer will naturally seek to gather up all the existing site maps, charts and whatever other relevant infor-mation might be available, and try to glean a sound appreciation as to what are the likely key engineering and environmental issues that will have to be dealt with. 

    Project sponsors can expect that in Jamaica they will be able to gather con-siderable information from the following sources, which they will be able to use for carrying out meaningful preliminary studies for installation of pipe-lines and cables in the coastal zone. 
     

      Survey Department -comprehensive topo/cadastral maps, some hydrographic charts

      Geological Survey Department -geological maps, reports, earthquake hazard map, hurricane hazard map

      Government Meteorological Office -weather data:wind, rainfall waves, tides, storm surge

      Seismic Unit, -various publications on University of the West Indies, Mona -local & regional seismicity

      Underground Water Authority -underground water resources, flood maps

      Natural Resources Conservation Authority - the NRCA Docucentre is the most im portant source for information on govternment environmental policy, national environmental Standards, and the Permitting process. 

      Port Authority of Jamaica -the PAJ is government’s chief Agency for the regulation and monitoring of all maritime activities and Dock and Harbour constructions. 
       

3.5 Project Sponsors Should Seek Early Contact With Local Interest Groups
    Project sponsors are advised that they should make it an essential component of their preliminary studies to initiate contact with local interest groups, and seek to involve them in the selection of suitable sites/routes for their projects 
     
4. PERMITTING PROCEDURES 
 
4.1 Project Sponsors Should Make Early Contact With NRCA 
    Certain types of activities in the coastal zone will give rise to particular ef-fects, and therefore it is important for all concerned to be aware of the parti-cular types of negative effects that are likely to arise from a given type of project. Project Sponsors are therefore urged to make contact with NRCA from the very earliest stages of project planning and to seek advice from the Authority in regard to the nature of the particular environmental issues that will have to be satisfactorily addressed in order for them to obtain the necessary permits. 
4.2 Project Sponsors May Be Required To Hold Public Meetings To Inform Local Communities Concerning Their Proposals 
    4.2.1 The NRCA may require that applicants for permits to install pipelines or cables in the coastal zone, consult with other government agencies, and with local interest groups that may be adversely affected. Project sponsors must be prepared to fulfill, as part of the permitting process, NRCA requirements to hold "town meetings" to give opportunities to local populations to voice their opinions concerning proposed projects. 

    4.2.2 To foster genuine people participation, the site selection process itself must be comprehensive, clearly laid out, and presented in understandable language. Project sponsors should regard town meetings as very valuable opportunities for open consultations with local communities. The adoption of logical, comprehensive and open procedures in site selection may well produce the most satisfactory results for project sponsors as well as the public.

4.3 NRCA’s Environmental Review and Permitting Process 
 
    Any project in the coastal zone which has the potential of affecting the environment must be referred to NRCA for consideration. Documentary information concerning NRCA’s Environmental Review and Permitting process can be obtained from NRCA upon request. 

    The NRCA’s Review Process, leading up to either the granting of a Permit for implementation, or denial of the project, is illustrated in the flow chart given overleaf, and the salient points of the review process are explained below. 
     

continue
 
 
See Flowchart of NRCA's Permitting Process
 

 

 
 

 

 
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