Plans to dump dredged sediment close to the Great Barrier Reef have been fast tracked leading to estimates of damage and risk being underestimated, according to a report for the WWF.
The government’s proposal suggests that 1.7 million cubic metres of dredged seabed will be mixed with sea water, creating 14 million cubic metres of dredge slurry. This will then be settled in ponds in the Caley Valley wetlands, with tailwater discharged back into the water of the Great Barrier Reef.
WWF argues that the plans raise “alarming concerns” and the impacts have not been properly considered.
WWF-Australia reef campaigner Louise Matthiesson commented, “The proposal is full of information gaps big enough to drive a truck through. It contains errors, out-of-date information, and doesn’t even consider some dangers. That’s what happens when a project is fast tracked without a full environmental impact assessment.”
Brett Miller, from the University of New South Wales School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, has advised WWF-Australia that the amount of distributed dredge material is likely to exceed the capacity of the ponds, raising questions about long-term plans.
The organisation has also sought the advice of Professor Richard Bush, from Southern Cross University. He raised “serious concerns” about the risk of acid sulphate and its treatment, which can be harmful to marine life.
In addition to this, Matthiesson stated that there other concerns, including that the ponds will not be lined, allowing seepage, and the construction of the project is proposed for January and February 2015, during the wet season.
“There’s a risk of storm surge and cyclone damage, impacts on turtle hatchlings on the adjacent beach, and there will be maximum disruption to wetland birds as their numbers swell at this time of year,” she explained.
The environmental organisation is calling for the Queensland Government to reconsider the proposal and instead examine the possibility of building longer jetties into deeper water to minimise the need for dredging.
Photo: Paul Toogood via Flickr