Environmental Concerns Arise Over Beach Dredging
North Queensland Bulk Ports Corporation (NQBP), with has a long history of dredging projects at multiple ports along the Queensland coast, has released the following announcement:
“Good environmental and social outcomes matter to us and we have undertaken 19 dredging campaigns across all of our ports since 1992 without any major environmental impacts.
“We are aware of recent concerns from tourist operators at Airlie Beach in relation to the extent that plumes associated with the Abbot Point Capital Dredging Project will travel. We believe that some of these concerns have arisen as a result of modelling that was undertaken by SKM/APASA for Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) as part of the Improved Dredge Material Management (IDMM) report that was prepared to inform the Strategic Assessments of the Great Barrier Reef.
“The SKM/APASA model itself was never designed to be used for impact assessment. The model was developed to help determine whether there were comparative benefits in placing dredged material in shore or offshore within the Great Barrier Reef lagoon. NQBP has previously expressed significant concerns with the modelling being inappropriately used for impact assessment or interpreted out of context by the public given the many acknowledged limitations, untested assumptions and lack of validation of the model.
“These concerns have been acknowledged by GBRMPA who are planning to release an “interpretive statement” in relation to the work they have undertaken. It is our hope that this “interpretive statement” will clarify some of the confusion that this modelling has created and the limited context within which the model should be considered.
“We are of the view that the hydrodynamic modelling undertaken as part of the Abbot Point Capital Dredging Project represents world best practice and provides a much more accurate assessment of the likely extent of plume generated as a result of dredging at Abbot Point. In particular we highlight the following:
• The modelling was undertaken in accordance with Public Environmental Report (PER) Guidelines developed by GBRMPA and SEWPaC, and shared with the public via formal public consultation before being finalised.
• As required by the PER Guidelines, two three-dimensional models were developed and were used comparatively to ensure modelling accuracy. The models were produced by internationally recognised consultants using industry standard techniques.
• Validation of the PER model has been undertaken against the monitored visual plume extent of the 2008 dredging campaign at Abbot Point. This validation process showed a high level of consistency for a comparative volume of dredging. This provides us with a high level of confidence in the accuracy of the PER models in predicting plume extent.
“Based on the robust two year impact assessment process we have undertaken, it is our view that appropriately timed and managed dredging campaigns such as the proposed Abbot Point Capital Dredging Project can continue to be undertaken successfully with minimal impacts on the environment, including Matters of National Environmental Significance, and values of the Great Barrier Reef. This is supported by the outcomes of the historical assessment of dredging projects presented in the IDDM report which highlights that impact predictions from plume modelling significantly over-estimate impacts when compared to the results of monitoring programs conducted during dredge campaigns.”
Throughout the PER process, NQBP has consulted extensively with the local fishers, tourism groups and the community to address concerns and ensure that environmental impacts are avoided and mitigated where possible. The residual impacts to water quality have been predicted to be low and short term in nature and will be offset through a range of water quality improvement measures that are designed to provide a “net environmental benefit”.
It is important to note that the Abbot Point Capital Dredging project is a key enabler for a range of supporting mine and rail developments and ensures proponents are one step closer to financial close. The dredging will support port developments that are worth approximately $6-$9 billion and will generate in the order of 1500 construction and 750 operational jobs for Queensland.
Press Release, October 24, 2013