Australia: Report Sheds New Light on Port Dredging Impacts

A review of port-related dredging and associated environmental impacts in subtropical and tropical waters has been welcomed as an authoritative turning point in the debate surrounding management of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

Queensland Resources Council Chief Executive Michael Roche said the Ports Australia-commissioned expert analysis of recent dredging projects – including Cairns, Townsville, Hay Point and Gladstone – was a major contribution to the broader understanding of ports and dredging.

Ports are as vital to Australia’s future as they were to its development, noting that our living standards and quality of life depend on our trading performance,” Roche said.

Seaborne trade is Queensland’s lifeblood, with tens of billions of dollars in exports and imports hinging on navigable and safe ports from Brisbane to Cape York.

As ports are vital, so is the dredging that keeps them safe and improves their efficiency.

This timely review makes the crucial observation that shipping channels are of equal importance to our road and rail networks and that dredging of shipping channels is an essential part of port operation in Australia and globally.

“However, dredging and seabed placement continues to be misrepresented as an environmental threat to the Great Barrier Reef by activists whose only objective is to close down Queensland’s export coal and gas industries.

“The message from Queensland is as clear as it has ever been – no dredging of coral reefs and no disposal of dredge spoil on coral reefs or other environmentally sensitive areas.

“Now, this expert, peer-reviewed report has confirmed that recent dredging and dredged material placements in subtropical and tropical Australian ports have either met their rigorous environmental conditions or exceeded expectations,” Roche said.

Quoting from the report: “Of the 43 monitoring programs reviewed, 62% reported impacts that were consistent with approvals, 21% reported impacts less than approved, 5% reported impacts that were greater than approved and, in 12% of the cases, impacts could not be determined primarily due to extreme weather effects.”

Roche said the review didn’t pull any punches in calling out the Gladstone Western Basin and Hay Point Departure Path projects reporting water turbidity impacts significantly greater than those approved or predicted.

However, as the report highlights, associated monitoring of seagrass did not indicate any impacts greater than those permitted under the environmental conditions imposed at Gladstone; and at Hay Point, the impact on inshore coral was 20-times less than expected.

This is a substantive report in terms of laying out the conditions under which dredging is approved and the comprehensive and conservative approach taken from the outset.

It is also a testament to the effectiveness of environmental management strategies adopted during dredging and dredge material placement – for which Australia is globally renowned.

This is more scientifically documented evidence that the reef scare campaign mounted by anti-coal and anti-gas activists is about damaging Australia’s international reputation and shutting down industries responsible for almost one quarter of the Queensland economy.

Press Release, April 23, 2014

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