NQBP Announces Abbot Point Dredging QAs Publication (Australia)
North Queensland Bulk Ports Corporation (NQBP), a leading port authority responsible for world-class facilities at the working ports of Hay Point, Mackay, Abbot Point and Weipa, has announced its QAs Abbot Point Dredging publication for November 2013.
What impact do the approval conditions have for NQBP and the proponents?
The conditions set out in Abbot Point Capital Dredging EPBC approval clearly demonstrate the Minister’s commitment to protecting Commonwealth Matters of National Environmental Significance (MNES), including the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area (GBRWHA). Proponents are required to undertake the dredging activity in such a way that provides an overall net benefit to the Great Barrier Reef (GBR).
Now that we have received the approval, we will be developing a number of management plans in consultation with the Department of the Environment (DoE) and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA).
The approval and conditions acknowledge that NQBP and the proponents have undertaken a rigorous and robust impact assessment process, in accordance with the relevant legislative provisions, which identifies deep water offshore disposal as providing the best social and environmental outcomes.
Does this approval mean that the dredge material will be placed offshore?
Yes, the dredge material will be placed offshore. After more than two years of work, involving numerous technical experts and extensive stakeholder consultation, offshore disposal at Abbot Point was identified as providing the best social and environmental outcomes.
Has the offshore relocation site been determined?
This approval supports the first site proposed in the Public Environment Report (PER) for offshore disposal and acknowledges that the scientific studies undertaken for this site were robust and did not identify any significant impacts to nearby sensitive ecological receptors.
However, the conditions also require NQBP to work through a Disposal Site Analysis Plan (DSAP) process, to determine whether there is a better alternative offshore disposal site which provides an equivalent or lesser environmental impact to relevant MNES. NQBP and coal terminal proponents remain committed to working with key stakeholders to identify (on balance) the best offshore disposal location.
What is involved with determining the final relocation site?
NQBP and Abbot Point coal terminal proponents are required to work through a DSAP process, as part of its EPBC approval conditions, which will involve:
– identifying potential alternative offshore disposal locations within a defined zone;
– revising existing constraints analysis;
– facilitating further community participation though the extended Technical Advisory
Consultative Committee (TACC) in site selection;
– supplementing existing broad scale marine studies with site-specific data;
– undertaking additional plume modelling for the selected site(s) with reference to
Improved Dredge Management for the Great Barrier Reef Region;
– undertake a comparative assessment
– preparing a report and communicating findings.
Is there a chance the original PER relocation site could be used to place the dredge material?
The approval only allows for dredge material to be placed within the original relocation site situated approximately 3km from the WWII Catalina Wreck site, unless NQBP can determine through additional studies that a better offshore disposal site exists.
Given the proximity to the WWII Catalina Wreck site and feedback obtained throughout the PER consultation process, it is recognised that a better alternative offshore disposal location may exist. NQBP is committed to undertaking further comparative assessment work to ensure the final disposal location is in fact the best (in terms of protecting MNES).
Were other options for relocating dredge material such as trestle extension considered?
Extended trestles were one of several options considered to achieve a balance between environment, social, safety and financial viability. The Supplementary PER highlights a number of significant constraints associated with trestle extension. These include a higher exposure to extreme weather events, difficulties operating a port in the Marine Park as opposed to within port limits, additional operating and maintenance costs, and navigational safety concerns.
A number of onshore, inshore and offshore options were considered throughout the two year PER process, with the Supplementary PER concluding that relocation to a deeper offshore relocation area remained the best option.
Do the berth pockets allocated to Terminal 2 (T2) development need to be dredged?
While there is currently no proponent allocated to T2, NQBP believes that there is a market for the site and as a result, the T2 development timeframes proposed in the EPBC referral remain unchanged.
Does the dredging need to occur during a single dredge campaign?
The PER impact assessment has looked a range of dredging scenarios including the full three million cubic metres across an approximate eight week dredging timeframe. However it is more likely that the project will occur across two or three smaller dredge campaigns, with each campaign lasting approximately three to four weeks, over a maximum five year period (to reflect demand driven schedule of the terminal developer proponents at Abbot Point). The conditions of the approval limit the volume of dredging allowed each calendar year.
Has it been determined where the plumes associated with the Abbot Point Capital Dredging Project will travel?
Hydrodynamic modelling was undertaken in accordance with PER Guidelines which represents best practice and provides an accurate assessment of the likely extent of plume generated as a result of dredging at Abbot Point. Validation of the PER model has been undertaken against the monitored visual plume extent of the 2008 dredging campaign at Abbot Point. This process showed a high level of consistency for a comparative volume of dredging (in any one campaign) which provides a high level of confidence in the accuracy of predicting the plume extent.
How do you explain the SKM/APASA modelling (commissioned by GBRMPA) which shows dredge plumes as potentially travelling much further than previously thought?
The reports commissioned by GBRMPA in relation to dredge material management are mainly high level and do not replace the need for detailed environmental impact statements for individual development proposals.
Press Release, December 10, 2013