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About the Proposed Dredging

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Just last week the State Government of Victoria announced it had signed the contract for the dredging of Port Phillip Bay. The dredging project is due to start on February 1st,  2008 at the height of summer.

In 2005, there was trial dredging of Port Phillip Bay. There have been so many protests and demonstrations. There have been petitions and an attempt to establish sovereignity and a mandate of the people. There have been numerous reports from scientists and marine experts on the damage to the marine environment. Google – do a search for yourself. Just type in Dredging of Port Phillip Bay and see what comes up.

The Bay is a naturally formed shallow bay and the channel for ships is narrow. The dredging is to allow much bigger ships to enter our Port of Melbourne.

Those of us who live along the shores KNOW what effects these big ships have.

The choice before the people of Victoria is: do we deepen and widen the channels to allow for industry and shipping to increase at the expense of the marine park and fragile eco system OR do we discipline the fiscal interests (of a few) in the light of sustainability and care of the environment? There are many people, businesses and organisations that depend on a healthy bay.  This issue is one the global world is facing in many different ways. 

This site is one of a few expressing the view that we need to choose wisely. The plan for the Bay Vigil on the 8th January is to let the world know – we care.

The dredging will be a two year project. The initial report in 2004 (before the trial) stated that the work would be temporary. Two years of disturbance to the bay, vibration and noise is a long ‘moment in time’. Millions of tonnes of putrid toxic silt will be raised from the mouth of the Yarra and dumped into the centre of the Bay. How will this effect Docklands? How will it effect the Yarra?

How will it effect the Bay and marine ecosystem, the beaches and quality of the sea? How long will the Bay then take to regenerate and stabilise its marine environment? For a comprehensive coverage of this, try : Bad developers.

Will the deeper channels allow a greater flow of the sea and change the tidal patterns? * In a world experiencing weather extremes and climate change, is this dredging and deepening of the channel now innapropriate and unwise?  We think so. [* Jan 10th. Counsel for Minister Garrett reveals that damage to the heads could see tides encroaching up to 25 metres. ]

The Blue Wedges site gives you up to date scientific information in answers to your questions. The Blue Wedges Coaltition is a dedicated group of people who have raised the funds (still need help) and worked to stop the dredging. It is they who have employed the legal help to take this matter to the Federal court on January 10th /11th, 2008.  bluewedges

We four who created this site and want to organise the BayVigil do not presume to give you all the relevant data. Some of it is available elsewhere on the net. A great deal, we still do not know and despite clear efforts, are discouraged.  

It is worth checking out Greens Senator Susan Pennecuik’s report of her battles in the Victorian Parliament: The issues she raised and the blatant overriding of her concerns is indicative of the bulldozing approach of the State ministers and the Port of Melbourne. Not ‘a fair go’ at all. Certainly, neither curious nor intelligent debate.

We KNOW, as locals living near Point Nepean, that the consequences of the trial dredging have:

1. Drastically scarred the heads

2. The water levels in king tides have reached further into the shoreline. 

3. That local Councils have reconstructed their beaches following the dredging. They have imported clean sand and rebuilt the shoreline to save the beach huts and leisure areas popular in our long summer.

4. The noise of the dredging machine and the stirring up of the Bay was most unpleasant and quite disturbing.

5. That the Marine College established at Point Nepean has suddenly closed without completing the Course offered. Why?

5. That the sludge that was washed up onto the shore was quite evident.

6. That amunition at Point Nepean was dumped into the bay after WW2. Some has been discovered by divers close to the heads. The proposed dredging and work at the heads is therefore dangerous and most unwise.  

Rye beach August 2007    Rye beach August 2005.            

 The dark slick is NOT seaweed!

We invite any more observations and evidence from the people who sail, fish, dive, swim, walk, play, and relax around the Bay to send us your pics and comments. Join us the people, as the eyes and ears – Vigil of the Bay.

 Rye beach August 2007

Posting 24th December 2008.

Common? Sense view…

 [Rhys is a local photographer and sailor. He knows the Bay and the beaches and has lived here for many years. This is his perspective of the Dredging Project.]

One of the main problems with the dredging proposal is that it involves removing an estimated 3 million tonnes of the sedimentary sludge from the mouth of the river Yarra. Our industrial practices for the last 150 years have been fairly mindless in an environmental sense . The common attitude of industries producing toxic by-products , heavy metal residues etc etc has been simply – out of sight  and out of mind . “Pour it down the drain , nobody will know ” .

How much lead, zinc, cadmium , petroleum product , plastics , dioxins and who knows what else, has gone down those drains which feed into the Yarra?  A bloody hell of a lot would be the technical term!

Every day our huge population of road vehicles drops stuff all over the roads. There are spills daily of toxic stuff by industry. Little bits here and there, but over the years (especially pre EPA monitoring) there have been shitloads (another technical measure) of all manner of undesirable residue washed down the drains. It rains and everything is washed marvelously clean, straight down the stormwaters and the rivers and creeks to be deposited in the already sluggish water at the river mouth .
By damming the catchments through deforestation and clearing of the forest floors, the river flows are diminished and the sediment is deposited without being dispersed further down the bay. The gradual effect is silt building up just where we don’t want it.
Shipping is also a big cause of pollutants. Long-term concentration of shipping maintenance and repair industry, has, over time, released a lot more of this undesirable stuff into the harbour areas .

The colour of the water in Hobson’s Bay testifies to this. When I sailed for a couple of years in those areas it was never possible to see into the water even during times of no rainfall. It was like stepping into paradise when I began sailing down here at Blairgowrie, and Rye in relatively clear waters.
The point here is that all this toxic shit is there buried in the sludge where it is held in a relatively benign state. Now, people are fearing – justifiably – that by dredging the 3 mill. tonnes of this stuff from the river mouth, the buried layers will no longer be relatively benign. The stirring up of this toxic sediment will release into the marine environment, a great deal of our human made chemicals, affecting water health , the grasses and coral reefs, the food chain and the beaches. .
This sludge is going to be dumped in “spoil grounds” in the middle of the Bay using the old policy of: “out of sight, out of mind “.

My horse sense tells me that this is, to say the least, moronic, as a solution.

We humans may have opposing thumbs but at times I wonder if we have two braincells to rub together. We spoil our own nests and leave our waste to rot in our own pristine environments.
If you swim in the Yarra – there’s a great chance that you’ll get sick . The rowing clubs know this:  ear, nose, throat , and eye infections are very possible for those willing to spend much time in Yarra river. Drinking it would be extremely dangerous and yet people are allowed to catch and eat fish from the river. I wouldn’t eat them under any circumstances!
At Gunnamatta and several other locations we have sewage outfalls. Surfers along the back beaches are affected by this and are often getting sick. It’s a well known and documented fact. By causing more pollution of the bay, this chain of unhealthy events is given the opportunity to increase and converge as the polluted volumes of water mix and join inside and outside the bays.
The healthy animal life forms on this planet evolved drinking clean water, eating clean food and breathing clean air – for millions of years. When these conditions were not present, life form populations changed rapidly or became extinct. Most species have a marvelous ability to adapt to changing circumstances. If they cannot, they simply die out.

Since the beginning of the industrial revolution, a mere 200 years or so, we humans have raised the bar, forcing nature to adapt to our requirements of lifestyle.

We are the most destructive species on earth causing the extinction of countless life-forms. The oceans and their bounty have been seriously depleted by our actions and behaviour.
Eg. Water quality is seriously effected by the introduction of petroleum products. This can be measured by science at so many parts per million to make water undrinkable. This is just one small example of what we are doing to the planet’s H2O.
Imagine the effect that just the shipping sunk during WW2 has had on the marine environment? How much petro-product has been slow releasing over the years? Oil rigs leak on a constant basis.  Sewage is released into the oceans all around the planet. Industrial by-products are flushed into the sea.

We know that fish stocks are low world –wide. Yet, world demand for healthy fish is increasing daily with population growth and we know how good it is for our health to eat the omega oils contained in these sea creatures.

On land we are pouring chemicals into our food, herbicides into our crops and chemicals in our daily domestic water which we flush into the sea through stormwater drains. Even on land, this eventually finds its way into the water table.
I realise that I have strayed from the immediate point here but I believe that a general overview of the whole picture is valuable in our decision- making processes with anything we do to the environment.
With global warming – water levels are rising . Plenty of evidence supports this. We see it with or own eyes. By opening the Port Phillip Heads to a greater tidal influx we may well find that the average water levels rise leading to all manner of problems on low-lying land. Already local beaches disappear at high tide.

The ocean with its tides is a relentless hydraulic pump. The plan is apparently to deepen the shipping channel by which amounts to a lot of extra water flowing on the high tide not to mention King tides.

We already have a constant stream of shipping successfully plying in and out and the City of Melbourne is alive and well.  I just don’t know why there is a great need for huge ships to be facilitated at the potential cost of the environment. Who will really be gaining in the long run? It has been admitted that this big ship plan is not a long term solution of great benefit. The men in suits who have these big ideas are not particularly sensitive to the subtle aspects of the environment. Nor do they seem to be open to learning.

We down here with our feet in the water have noticed a lot of dead creatures and marine life washed up on the shores and floating in the Bay following the ‘trial dredging’.  You can see the pics here on this site of black sludge that doesn’t belong on clean beaches. Port Phillip Pilots have stated that bigger ships are harder to turn and run more risk of navigational hazards in the shipping lanes. A grounded tanker could be disastrous for the Bay. Why risk it?
While my comments may not include a lot of definite science and there is certainly some emotion in my feelings about it, I would back my “horse sense” over the economic rationalists any day of the week.
I would support the idea of upstream silt-traps in the Yarra to help alleviate the problem of downstream silt.

With willingness and ingenuity we can find benign environmental solutions to serve our human needs in ways that facilitate long term survival of our fellow species and encourage healthy ecosystems.
I rest my case,
With Respect,


Rhys Jones

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