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Escrito por Abigail desde (c-68-36-110-47.hsd1.pa.comcast.net) el día jueves, 09 de agosto, 2007 a las 21:56:08 horas :

El Reporte - Zihuatanejo Bay Studied for Cruise-ship Pier
Thursday, August 09, 2007
By Capt. Patricia Miller Rains
Zihuatanejo Bay is being studied for a possible new cruise-ship pier and marina basin, according to Mexican news reports.

Federal officials are hoping to build a pier inside Zihuatanejo Bay that can accommodate up to three cruise ships at the same time. But some locals, including the town's mayor, say they would rather the pier be built outside the harbor.

Zihuatanejo and adjacent Ixtapa are popular destinations for recreational boaters. located 175 nautical miles south of Manzanillo and 100 miles north of Acapulco. The Ixtapa hotel development 10 miles west of Zihuatanejo already has a 621-slip marina inside two manmade yacht basins.

Zihuatanejo Bay is a natural harbor enclosing about 1 sq. mile of sea surface, with three beach anchorages and a 300-ft. municipal pier reserved for local excursion boats. The 500-meter-long La Boquita estuary, off the northwest side of Zihuatanejo Bay, is too shallow for any boats but pangas, and its entrance is blocked by a footbridge. However, port officials have long been seeking development of the estuary as a marina basin.

The first of several geological studies has begun, said a spokeswoman for Procomar, the Mexico City engineering firm conducting the studies. Their purpose is to determine if a pier large enough to accommodate three cruise ships at the same time can be built inside the bay. She affirmed that La Boquita estuary is also being studied for its potential as a marina basin for yachts, but Procomar officials would not elaborate about the possible marina basin or their bay studies.

During winter, dozens of cruising yachts anchor off Playa Municipal and Playa Madera, the region where the pier studies are taking place, and both anchorage areas would be obstructed if pier construction were approved and funded. During summer hurricane season, Zihuatanejo and Ixtapa are more popular with surfers.

In his annual Marina Day speech June 1, Mexican President Felipe Calderon announced his five-year plan that includes building more cruise-ship piers, in order to create more jobs and better lives for Mexican citizens. Calderon named Zihuatanejo, along with Cabo San Lucas, Loreto, Manzanillo, Guaymas and three more ports in Quintana Roo as locat1ons for new cruise-ship piers.

In July, Enrique Guavara reported that Zihuatanejo's mayor Silvano Blanco de Aquino accompanied the Mexican merchant marine and officials from the federal transportation department, Fonatur and Procomar to scout alternate pier sites outside Zihuatanejo Bay, including Playa Larga, but none were as sheltered as inside the bay.

Other requirements, said Mayor Blanco, are that passengers from three cruise ships be offloaded and have easy access to the town. He said that plans for improved land access would follow, if the bay studies and environmental studies allow approval of the project. Blanco said the existing municipal pier would not be touched. Guavara was reporting on Blanco's interview for the local news agency Zihuatanejo Radio FM Razones.

On Aug. 3, Mayor Blanco told The Acapulco News that he is meeting with opposition groups, including local business owners, and that he also prefers an alternate locat1on outside the bay, particularly the Playa Larga locat1on. Playa Larga lies about a mile west of Zihuatanejo Bay and has a road access to town.

Hot Issues

Although it would be years before any pier or marina could be built, a lot of controversy surrounds not only cruise-ship ports, but also the destruction of mangrove estuaries.

A group called SOS Bahia Freestyle organized opposition to the possible cruise-ship pier due to potential contamination of the bay, citing statistics about the amount of garbage, exhaust and water pollution created by cruise ships. The group claims responsibility for halting previous development of the Puerto Mio marina in Zihuatanejo Bay.

In Cabo San Lucas, vibrations from cruise-ship propellers are reported to have hastened cracks in the landmark arches, but the cracks have been patched with cement. In the Caribbean, silt stirred up by cruise ship propellers is reported to have damaged coral reefs at Cozumel. In Huatulco Bay, when a cruise-ship pier was built in the center of the bay, the former yacht anchorage was cut in half and the seabed was fouled by construction debris, but a new marina basin was built nearby.

Marina Ixtapa near Zihuatanejo contains 621 slips and a fuel dock surrounded by mangroves and hotels. Marina Ixtapa was built in 1994 by dredging two yacht basins into a coastal mangrove estuary about twice the size of La Boquita estuary inside Zihuatanejo Bay.

However, in the past 20 years, Mexico's environmental protection laws have expanded to protect mangrove estuaries as valuable resources in the fisheries industry and as shoreline protection from storm damage.

Capt. Patricia Miller Rains

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