The Environmental Protection Authority has released its recommendations to the Environment and Heritage Minister on Geraldton Port Authority's (GPA) proposal to upgrade the Port of Geraldton, known as the Port Enhancement Project (PEP), and undertake preparatory works for the Town Beach Foreshore Redevelopment Project.
The objective of the PEP is to enable vessels to sail from the port fully laden.
The main elements of the proposal are:
- dredging of the harbour basin from 9.3 metres to 12.1 metres deep;
- widening of the existing channel and extension out to sea from 90 metres to 200 metres at the entrance to the harbour basin, from 150 metres to 230 metres wide around the corner, and from 150 metres to 200 metres along the outer straight;
- disposal of dredge spoil (3.5 million cubic metres of limestone material) from channel dredging offshore to create artificial lobster catching reefs;
- reconfiguration and construction of breakwaters;
- relocation of the existing northern breakwater;
- reclamation of land adjacent to the existing northern breakwater requiring 0.3-0.4 million cubic metres of fill and within and adjacent to the new eastern breakwater;
- sand nourishment of Town Beach from 0.6 million cubic metres of spoil from the Southern Transport Corridor project; and
- construction and operation of a railway line on the eastern breakwater.
EPA Chairman, Bernard Bowen, said the Authority considered the proposal could be managed in an environmentally acceptable manner provided there is satisfactory implementation of the recommended conditions, including the proponent's commitments.
"This is a major project with environmental impacts in a number of areas, including the direct loss of 30 hectares of seagrass habitat in Champion Bay," Mr Bowen said
"The dredging program, construction of the Eastern Breakwater and the PEP's impacts on coastal stability required detailed evaluation.
"Issues such as effects on wild life, turbidity plumes from dredging, long term water quality in the harbour and Champion Bay, rail noise, visual amenity, long shore sediment movement and the management of Town Beach have all been considered in the EPA's report.
"The EPA considers that the GPA is proposing appropriate measures to reduce the impacts of the PEP on the local sea lions.
"To minimise the impacts of increased turbidity from dredging a water quality monitoring and management plan has been developed. Dredging operations will be adjusted or temporarily halted when set water clarity levels are exceeded.
"The EPA also expects the GPA and the dredge operator to use best practice management to minimise turbidity during dredging through a dredge management plan.
"The GPA's 'Bulk Handling Action Plan' has initiated a programme to reduce the environmental impacts of port activities. The plan aims to improve port management practices, reduce stormwater inputs, spillages and inputs into the waters during routine loading and unloading activities, this should help minimise the risk of water quality deterioration."
The eastern breakwater is expected to provide a barrier to existing turbid plumes and associated contaminants that occasionally enter Town Beach from the harbour as a result of shipping movements.
"Given that the PEP does not introduce new sources of contaminants and nutrients, and the predicted increase in flushing times following completion of the eastern breakwater is minor, the likelihood of water quality deterioration occurring in Town Beach is considered to be low," Mr Bowen said.
"The GPA will be required to monitor water and sediment quality in the inner harbour and Town Beach to confirm that recommended Environmental Quality Objectives are being maintained.
"To address the issue of coastal stability, the GPA will monitor shoreline movement of the beaches between the Batavia Coast Marina and the Chapman River, providing sand nourishment on a regular basis as part of the City of Geraldton's Northern Foreshore Stabilisation and Enhancements Strategy.
"The EPA has recommended that the northern beaches program be extended to include the monitoring and nourishment of Town Beach until the newly reclaimed beach can be demonstrated to be stable."
The EPA's report is subject to appeal until close of business Monday 24 June 2002.
Media contact: Charlie Maling ph 9222 7062 or mobile 0400 866 450.