August 10th 2013
Report predicts doubled maintenance dredging mud for local waters
Magnetic Islanders keen to see the expansion of Townsville Port stopped over its potential to muddy our waters may take some heart from the caution shown by Federal Environment Minister, Mark Butler's decision, yesterday, to put the future of what could be the world's largest coal export terminal, planned for Abbot Point near Bowen, on hold for three months.
The delayed decision followed the Minister receiving a new report which, among other points, models the spread of dredging mud to be far greater than previously thought.
The decision is at the heart of a major battle between mining interests and conservationists, tourism and fisher groups who have opposed plans to open up the massive Galilee Basin which could see 100 million tonnes of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere and three million tonnes of sediment dredged from the floor of Great Barrier Reef waters.
The report, which was commissioned by the Minister's department, also reveals that:
- All Environment Impact Statements done on the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park port projects have been extremely conservative in estimating the impact of dredging.
- The coastal geomorphology of a number of existing ports (Cairns, Townsville and Gladstone) means that the amount of maintenance dredging required is likely to double. This would result in an additional 460,000 tonnes of dredge material dumped in the Reef World Heritage Area.
- The projected volume for dredge spoil disposal into the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area (based on current proposals) totals 43.8 million tonnes (42.4 million tonnes capital and 1.4 million tonnes maintenance), assuming that all proposals are constructed. This could potentially represent a 3,000% increase in volume for disposal over the next 3 years.
- The amount of “fines” (silt and clay particles <35 micrometres in size) in capital dredge material is 30%. If all the proposed projects are approved they could contribute up to 13 million tonnes of additional resuspended sediment to the waters of the Reef over the next 3-5 years.
North Queensland Conservation Council Co-ordinator, Wendy Tubman told Magnetic Times, “In the circumstances, and given that UNESCO as well as multitudes of senior marine scientists have expressed alarm about the impact of port development on the Great Barrier Reef, it is only sensible that the Minister consider further information before making a decision.”
“We appreciate that the new Minister is not rushing into a major decision that could have catastrophic environment, social and economic impacts without all the necessary information," she said.