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.

$760m dredging project likely to impact water, marine life

A REPORT on the expected impact of a $760-million proposed Gladstone Harbour dredging project has been finalised.

Following months of public consultation Gladstone Ports Corporation released the final Environmental Impact Statement for the Port of Gladstone Gatcombe and Golding Cutting Channel Duplication Project.

The project involves duplicating the Gatcombe and Golding Cutting channels to keep up with the predicted increase in export growth and allow better passage for ships.

The project would involve dredging 12.85 million cubic metres to make the port's existing bypass channels 16m deep and 200m wide.

The project would also include building bund walls to create a Western Basin Expansion reclama­tion adjacent to the exist­ing Western Basin reclamation area.

Member for Gladstone Glenn Butcher said the submission of the final EIS marked a "major step" for the project.

"Doing the proper planning now for this long-term project means our city will be ready when the time comes to expand our port," he said.

The report said the project had the potential to impact water quality, seagrass, marine turtles, shorebirds and marine values.

"The main impacts from the project are increased turbidity and sedimentation from dredging, and the potential release of contaminants," it said.

"These changes to water quality conditions have the potential to result in impacts to sensitive ecological receptors such as seagrass meadows, coral reef communities, marine flora and fauna as well as other environmental and recreational values."

It said the likely short-term decline to water quality and increased turbidity could impact turtles and their habitats.

"Underwater noise impacts from navigational aid impact piling activity is expected to have the largest impact on marine turtles with a single strike having potential to cause mortal injury within 35m from piling location, avoidance of source at up to 600m and behavioural changes exhibited within 2km from piling location," it said.

"Measures incorporated into Project EMP to reduce these impacts include avoidance during sensitive breeding/nesting periods and establishing an exclusion/safety zone around the perimeter of the navigational aids impact piling with visual monitoring, soft start, standby and shutdown procedures in the event of turtles being within the impact zone."

The report said the project was expected to cause the loss of 4.85 per cent of seagrass, and the establishment of the Western Basin Expansion reclamation area would likely have an adverse impact on migratory shorebird foraging habitat. GPC acting chief executive Craig Walker said the final EIS took into account comments received during consultation earlier this year.

"The project need will be based on shipping demand, including anticipated changes in shipping fleets into the future," he said. "The long lead-in times required for planning and preparation, including environ­mental baseline data collec­tion, impact assessment and government approvals, is why we have progressed the project's EIS well in advance."

The project is expected to create 386 construction and 23 operational jobs. GPC hopes to start construction in 2023 and it would take 14 months.

The EIS is open for viewing until November 29 and is available on the port's website, at Kullaroo House, the Gladstone City Library and the State Library of Queensland.