Port Phillip Bay dredging is not world’s best practice, despite earlier claims it would be

Dredging in Port Phillip Bay is not being performed at world’s best practice. To do that the toxic spoil should be removed from the water. Of course the government is not claiming world’s best practice now, although they said at the beginning of the panel hearings that it would be conducted in that manner. The whole dredging exercise has been overlayed with media spin from the Port of Melbourne Authority.
Now the spoil, which is hundreds of times that dumped by any maintenance dredging, will be spread throughout the Bay by the volatile currents that exist in those waters. The Bay is notorious for its weather conditions and spoils that have previously been dumped have not remained in position. Incidentally the dredging of Corio Bay wiped out all the sea grass and it hasn’t regenerated. Snapper breeding grounds have been decimated.

Evidence has been given by scientists that the Bay will be destroyed forever. And please note that the government didn’t call on the CSIRO to deliver information and data they have been collecting on the Bay for decades. Without the CSIRO, on such an environmentally threatening exercise the government cannot claim impartiality – or lack of hypocrisy and bloody-mindedness. Remember it has been pushed from the start by Brumby as treasurer, and his supporters at the Melbourne Club.

Nothing is being said of the unique dolphin species that has evolved in the Bay over thousands of years. They will undoubtedly disappear like the dolphins of the Gippsland Lakes (great government we have – it’s never respected the environment).

But saving the worst to last, the dredging of a deeper channel opens the bay up to larger ships that cannot safely negotiate the entrance to the southern channel. There will be an Exxon Valdez style disaster is the opinion of Captain Frank Hart, a former harbour master of Western Port Bay. he’s done the figures and as there is no safety margin now for regular size ships ( an average of 3 have grounded every year since 1974 – it hasn’t yet been too much of a problem because they’re of a depth of keel that can scrape over the Great Southern Sands (and rocks) but the bigger ships will gouge their way to disaster.

Having to enter the Bay at an angle, against currents that run to 14 knots and more, in order to reach the southern channel , they can be up to 140 metres wide and they entering a channel entrance of just over 200 metres wide. “It’s not if there’ll be an Exxon Valdez,” says captain Hart, “it’s when.”


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