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Court Halts Controversial Bahamas Dredging Project

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NASSAU, Bahamas (AP) — A court ordered a resort company on Friday to stop dredging off the Bahamian islands of Bimini, granting at least a temporary victory to critics who say the project is damaging the delicate underwater environment in a prized diving and sport fishing destination.

The London -based Judicial Committee of the Privy Council , the ultimate court of appeal for commonwealth countries, said Resorts World Bimini must stop the dredging off North Bimini until the company can show it has the environmental permits required under Bahamian law.

The Bimini Blue Coalition , a local group that opposes the dredging, said Resorts World Bimini, a subsidiary of Malaysia -based casino company Genting Group , had skirted sufficient environmental review and permitting with the Bahamian national government's blessing.

" The Bimini Blue Coalition is ecstatic that the rule of law has prevailed," said Fred Smith , a lawyer for the environmental group. "I think this is a watershed moment in the Bahamas . It is a signal to the government that you must respect the local people."

Resorts World spokeswoman Heather Krasnow said dredging has been stopped but that the company expects to resume.

"We have all permits in hand and will provide the necessary documentation to lift the injunction expeditiously," Krasnow said.

The injunction is the latest setback for a resort project that has been criticized as out-of-scale for tiny Bimini, a rustic cluster of islands 50 miles east of Florida .

Resorts World Bimini began dredging earlier this month in the clear-blue waters off the 700-acre resort site to build a terminal and pier for its Miami -based cruise ship. Without the pier, the company has been forced to drop anchor and take visitors to shore in smaller vessels. That has limited how many people it can take to the resort and the amount of time visitors can spend there.

Resorts World had previously announced that the pier would be complete in November. A 350-room hotel that was to open by last Christmas is now scheduled to be completed by this year's end.

People in Bimini have expressed mixed feelings about the project, welcoming the economic development but leery of a resort that the company said would employ more people than the full-time population of about 1,600 people.

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