Ports North revises Cairns dredging proposal, pushes back environmental impact statement release again.
In new information released by Ports North the estimated amount of material to be dumped has been reduced, more detail on proposed dredge spoil dumping locations has come to light and the release of the environmental impact statement for public comment has been pushed back yet again to October or November.
Josh Coates, CAFNEC Marine Programs Coordinator said:
“The fact that the release of the environmental impact statement (EIS) for public comment has been pushed back yet again to October or November is yet another indication that there are serious environmental problems that Ports North are struggling to address.”
“The Cairns dredging proposal comes in the context of a large number of new dredging proposals along the Great Barrier Reef coast, UNESCO concern and the potential listing of the reef as World Heritage in Danger, poor reef health as reported in the Draft Strategic Assessment and the unprecedented poor health of local seagrass. We believe that any increase in sea dumping involves an unacceptable level of environmental risk.”
“It is tempting to see onshore dumping as the solution, however factors such as the extremely high levels of potential acid sulphate soils (PASS) make any onshore dumping highly environmentally problematic. Remediation of PASS is very costly and risky and could not be considered a wise use of taxpayers money when alternatives to new capital dredging exist, including the option of not dredging at all.”
“It is difficult to believe that the option of dumping the spoil at the Cairns esplanade is being seriously considered. That option is fraught with many problems such as potential for bund wall leaks, massive impost on amenity and tourism during operations, PASS, unsuitability of the dredge spoil as a base to build on and a range of other environmental impacts. Other options such as East Trinity dumping have similar problems.”
“If we were to see a major fish kill such as the one that occurred after dredging in Gladstone the impact on the tourism industry, and hence the Cairns economy, would be devastating.”
Ports North have just revised their estimate of the amount of dredge spoil they plan to dump down to 4.4 million mᶾ from well over 5 milllion mᶾ, citing a reduction on the proposed channel width, this is still a massive amount of fine mud to deal with. They estimate onshore dumping may add $100-200 million to the cost of the project.
Offsetting environmental impacts is highly controversial with most experts suggesting that offsets are not often effective, usually not realistic in implementation and very costly. For the proposed Abbot Point dredging, for example, internal GBRMPA documents that came to light this week indicated that the true cost of offsetting the approximately 3 million m3 of dredge spoil could be as high as $200 million.*
“Dumping more sediment in the marine environment at tax-payers expense makes a mockery of the $200 million funding for the reef rescue package, funding which in part attempts to address sediment runoff to the reef. It would be a slap in the face for farmers and other land managers who are improving practices to address declining reef health.”
“The cost to the taxpayer of dredging, the environmental risk and the risk to our tourism and fisheries industries that rely on a healthy marine environment are just too great. The potential benefits do not outweigh the risks and costs of this proposal. Better to continue to welcome large cruise ships and transfer passengers via Yorkey’s Knob and use the money saved to support local business in less risky and more effective ways.”
Media contact: Josh Coates, Marine Programs Coordinator, marine [at] cafnec.org.au