Whitsunday Regional Council approved plans for a 42-hectare dredged material rehandling facility at Molongle Creek last week.
Whitsunday Regional Council approved plans for a 42-hectare dredged material rehandling facility at Molongle Creek last week.

42-hectare dredging facility to keep river clear until 2070

A NEW 42-hectare facility will be built near Gumlu in a bid to improve boat accessibility in and out of the area.

Whitsunday Regional Council approved the construction of a dredged material rehandling facility at Molongle Creek last week.

The project, headed by the Department of Transport and Main Roads, will involve the construction of a land-based based facility on Days Rd that will allow for the storage, settling, drying and rehandling of dredged material.

The TMR application states the facility is needed to ensure the channel is deep enough for a range of vessels that use the Molongle Creek public boat ramp facility.

The ramp is the only means of access for residents living in Cape Upstart and is the only formal access point to offshore waters in the Burdekin area.

The application also identified that the existing access channel is "heavily tide restricted" and requires regular dredging.

The facility will ease access for boats according to plans.
The facility will ease access for boats according to plans.

The rehandling facility approved by the council is part of TMR's plan to widen and deepen the channel to allow access despite tides and reduce the need for more dredging.

The facility will include external and internal earthen bunds, or ridges, that will create a series of settling ponds.

A separate polishing pond will also be included as well as an area used to dry dredged material.

The ponds have been arranged to ensure dredging can continue until 2070.

During the dredging, a pipe will pump material from Molongle Creek which will settle in the ponds.

Clean salt water will be transferred back via a nearby drainage gully.

The sediment left in the ponds will then be left to dry before it is moved to a stockpiling and handling area by an excavator.

Emergency spillways have been included in the design that will direct flows to other areas if the ponds overflow as a result of extreme weather.

The ponds have been arranged to ensure dredging can continue until 2070.
The ponds have been arranged to ensure dredging can continue until 2070.

The ponds will have the capacity to hold about 360,000 cubed metres of dredged material.

The site of the facility is owned by TMR and 42 hectares of vegetation will be cleared for the project.

However, TMR is exempt from obtaining clearing permits for vegetation clearing as the project will be funded, owned and managed by TMR on TMR land.

This means it matches the definition of government supported transport infrastructure and can be defined as a storage facility relating to the necessary maintenance of a navigational facility.

About 3.8 hectares of ground cover marine plant species will also be removed, which according the TMR application is "unavoidable".

The facility is on Days Rd near Gumlu.
The facility is on Days Rd near Gumlu.

The application states "the area of impact has been minimised as far as practicable and is not likely to have any significant residual impacts to fish passage or fish habitat values".

The council's approval of the application included a clause that developers must "enter into an agreed delivery arrangement to deliver an environmental offset" that would "counterbalance the significant residual impacts" on marine plants before work begins.

The application also indicated that vegetation clearing could impact on several animal species.

A fauna spotter will inspect vegetation before any clearing activities and clearing will be done in portions in an attempt to reduce the impacts.

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Works will also take into consideration the breeding season of the white-bellied sea eagle to minimise disturbances to the nest near the facility.

Construction was originally anticipated to be undertaken during the 2020 dry season, which typically between May and October with dredging set to begin late this year.

It was estimated the construction of the facility would take about six months but would depend on weather and the availability of materials.

TMR estimated that by 2069, the facility would help in dredging 360,000 cubed metres of material.