A map of the proposed plans for two channel duplication projects within the Gladstone Harbour.
A map of the proposed plans for two channel duplication projects within the Gladstone Harbour. Tegan Annett

Project's potential environmental impacts on harbour revealed

THE impacts a proposed Gladstone Ports Corporation dredging project could have on the waterway and marine life within the harbour have been revealed.

Residents can have their say from today on the Port of Gladstone Gatcombe and Golding Cutting Channel Duplication Project following the release of a draft Environmental Impact Statement.

The project involves the duplication of the Gatcombe and Golding Cutting shipping channels in a bid to allow a better two-way passage for ships entering and leaving Gladstone Port.

The project involves dredging 12.85million cubic metres of seabed material to deepen and widen the two channels to about 16m deep and 200 metres wide. The channels would be 15km long.

As part of the project the Western Basin reclamation area would be expanded, where the sediment would be placed.

The EIS said the project had potential to impact water quality, seagrass, some reefs, migratory shorebirds, marine turtles, commercial and recreational fishers and residents who live nearby at Facing Island.

GPC said the impacts would be low to moderate.

It said the project could cause short-term declines in water quality, which could impact on reef communities.

The Western Basin Expansion would result in the loss of 275.37 hectares of potential migratory shorebird foraging area. This could change foraging and roosting behaviour and breeding success, the EIS said.

It said the WBE work could also impact turtles, and result in the loss of seagrass habitats. "Short-term declines in water quality generated by dredging activities and increased turbidity have the potential to impact on important green turtle habitat at seagrass meadows through temporarily decreasing benthic light conditions and smothering through sediment deposition," it said.

"These potential impacts to water quality are short term and will not significantly impact the availability of seagrass habitat for marine turtles."

The loss of seagrass within the WBE represents about 4.85 per cent of seagrass within the Port Curtis waterways, according to a 2017 survey, the EIS said.

In March last year, GPC started early discussions with stakeholders, including Facing Island residents and CQUniversity environmental experts about the project.

The EIS said GPC would continue to consult with nearby residents about the construction timeframe and potential impacts.

"Ongoing consultation and communication... will be important in managing potential social impacts related to negative public perceptions, anxiety, change of outlook and disruption," it said.

Acting chief executive Craig Walker said early last year the port's ability for economic growth would be "significantly impacted and hindered" without widening the two channels.

The early consultation for the proposed dredging followed backlash from the $1.3-billion Western Basin Dredging Project.

Completed between 2011-13, it was subject to international scrutiny about sediment dispersion and fish health.

In the draft EIS, GPC said it was confident in its planned measures to avoid, mitigate or offset any environmental impacts.

"With the effective implementation of the Project EMP and the Dredging EMP ... the majority of environmental impacts from project activities fall within the significance range of low to moderate and are acceptable in the context of a Port infrastructure project," the EIS said in its conclusion.

The EIS said dredging work would need to be completed within the next seven to 10 years to reduce risks of shipping movements within the harbour, as the number and size of bulk carriers visiting the region increases. It is predicted throughput at Gladstone Port could increase from 128million tonnes in 2018-19 to 136 million tonnes in 2030-31.

Not completing the project would increase safety risks within the harbour and cause port traffic congestion and delays, GPC said.

The project is estimated to create 382 jobs. The duplication is part of the Port of Gladstone's 50 Year Strategic Plan and aligns with the Reef 2050 Plan and the State Government's Master Planning for Priority Ports.

The Port of Gladstone is Queensland's largest multi-commodity port. RG Tanna Coal Terminal was the fourth largest coal terminal in the world by throughput in 2017-18.

To make a submission visit gpcl.com.au/development/channel-duplication-project.

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