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Gladstone outside reach of dredge spoil ban

A LEADING marine scientist is calling for more research into alternatives to dumping dredge spoil in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Heritage Area.

Yesterday Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt announced a ban on dumping capital dredge spoil, that is material removed in initial development, within the 348,000sqkm marine park.

He used environmental concers at the Port of Gladstone as an example.

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Mr Hunt said the government's announcement was about major dredging projects, referring to the new ban as a "radical" and a "once-in-a-century change".

But research scientist Jon Brodie, who will meet with Mr Hunt on Thursday, said this was a minor and redundant announcement and instead, further research was needed.

Mr Brodie said the distinction had not been clearly made between dumping in the marine park and dumping in the heritage area.

Greens Senator Larissa Waters said more than 1.7million cubic metres of spoil every year was dredged from maintenance works under current proposals, the same as dumping the Abbot Point dredge spoil once every two years.

Locally, maintenance spoil from the Gladstone shipping channel is dumped within the heritage area, near Facing Island.

That is just outside the boundary of the marine park, and therefore outside the reach of the ban.

This means the ban will not affect the proposed channel duplication project - a major dredging operation that will establish a two-way passage to cater for the increasing shipping traffic of the Gladstone Port.

Mr Brodie said the discussion and resources was important, but needed to focus on alternatives including more bunded areas like the one at Gladstone Port.

"We have to allow maintenance spoil to be dumped because we need our ports to operate. There are no alternatives," Mr Brodie said.

"The bund wall was a reasonable idea.

"Of course you need to have a properly built and managed bund wall, unlike what happened in Gladstone."

The problem was the difference between maintenance spoil and capital spoil.

"Capital spoil is thick and easier to deal with, where as the maintenance spoil is everything that has settled since the last maintenance dredge so its fine and fluffy," he said.

"We need to work out how we can store maintenance spoil behind a bund wall because at the moment that's not possible - it's too fine."

An Independent Review of the Port of Gladstone was commissioned by the Australian Government in February 2013.

In January 2014 Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt ordered a second inquiry into the leaking 8km bund wall.

Topics:  dredging, environment, gladstone harbour, great barrier reef




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