Council does not have $1.2M to start Ettalong dredging program

Proposed dredging area shown in yellow but the initial grant applies only to the location closest to Little Box HeadProposed dredging area shown in yellow but the initial grant applies only to the location closest to Little Box Head. Archive image 2018.

No money exists in the Council’s 2018-19 budget to cover its half of the proposed $2.4 million dredging program for the Brisbane Water channel.

That could delay the return of ferry services to Ettalong and Wagstaffe until at least July 2019 when the Council’s next budget is adopted. A Central Coast Council briefing document, called Broken Bay Dredging, said the cost to Council under the Rescuing Our Waterways funding announced on September 12, would be $1.225 million but “no current budget exists”. Council staff were “discussing options regarding the timing of this project with the State agencies as Council’s request identified a start date in 2019-20 financial year so that Council could allocate funding,” the briefing document said. It explained that the cost to dredge 80,000 cubic metres of sand would be just under $2.1 million with another $120,000 for approvals and $250,000 for mobilisation and demobilisation of the dredge.

Whilst indicating the $2.4 million dredging program may not start until 2019-20, the briefing document acknowledged the fact the new and larger public ferry was unable to pass through the channel was “of particular concern to many people”. “There are commercial benefits to the ferry service itself, and the local economy through visitor numbers. “This transport and tourism related project also provides the potential to address regional interconnectivity challenges including traffic congestion on the M1 during peak periods and the closure of major roads during natural disasters and motor accidents by developing a reliable alternative route to Sydney.” The briefing said the proposed large-scale dredging exercise would be “an opportunity to place the dredged sand on Ocean Beach, thus making good some of the effects of recent severe beach and dune erosion.

“Many recreational craft of all sizes are being impacted by the shoaling, particularly vessels such as keeled sailing boats. “The entrance channel from Little Box Head into the Ettalong Beach reach has long been subject to shoaling and narrowing,” the briefing said. “There have been calls from the public over many years to undertake dredging activities to restore free and unhindered navigation through this channel,” it said. The briefing document said two warning statements were included in the NSW Transport, Roads and Maritime Services boating guidelines map. The first warning said: “The entrance to Brisbane Water is encumbered by sandbanks upon which heavy breakers occur in southerly winds.” The second warning covered the Little Box Head to Ettalong area.

“Due to constantly changing shoals, port and starboard buoys are being repositioned as necessary to indicate the best available channel,” it said. According to the briefing in 2009-10, a consultant completed a Review of Environmental Factors and the channel was dredged by a contractor using a sweeper dredge which swept approximately 30,000 cubic metres of sand to the side of the channel. The NSW Government contributed 50 per cent of the project funds which, in total, cost $360,000. The channel was dredged twice in 2017. In one instance, according to the briefing, the NSW Department of Industry Crown Lands spent $150,000 to remove 3,000 cubic metres of sand which was placed about 100 metres from the channel.

SOURCE: Briefing document, Central Coast Council Reporter: Jackie Pearson