Sand nourishment plan may carry environmental risks

Emergency beach erosion works at Wamberal Beach

A staff report on the use of sand from the Sydney Metro West Tunnel to nourish Wamberal Beach listed potential risks including environmental impacts, temporary water quality changes and public perceptions around “dumping”.

According to the report, the sand is not proposed to be washed and may contain a fine silt component.

The potential impact of this silt would need to be considered in the environmental assessment, planning and approvals phase before making any commitment to accept the material, the report said.

“Once excavated and sorted the sand would be placed on barges and transported to nominated locations, including Wamberal Beach,” it said.

It would then be released from the barge into the embayment approximately 100 metres offshore where the sand would be transported onshore naturally by currents and tides.

“Guidance has been sought from the Department of Planning, Infrastructure and Environment (DPIE) on the approvals pathway.

“This is still to be confirmed.

“The nourishment may be classified as beach nourishment under the Coastal Management Act 2016 and be permissible without consent with a Review of Environmental Factors (REF).”

The REF, including the impact assessment, placement design, development of a monitoring regime and approvals, is expected to cost approximately $300,000, according to staff.

No budget is currently allocated for the project and Council staff have stated they believe it reasonable for the NSW Government to cover the entire cost.

If the NSW Government agrees to pay half, Council will find its half by reallocating funds set aside for dredging at The Entrance and Ettalong.

“An amount of $200,000 in operating expenditure has been included in the draft budget for adoption for 2021/22 to allow the project to proceed next year.

“No cost is expected to be incurred for the sand … noting that if this beach nourishment was to be undertaken by Council procuring this sand from a land-based source, the expected cost would be approximately $12,500,000.

“This opportunity therefore presents itself as an opportunity to secure a critical project at a heavily discounted rate.

“The Environment Protection Authority (EPA), Crown Lands and the Department of Primary Industries (Fisheries) have also been briefed of the project and will be consulted regarding any permits or licences required.”

Council staff said the environmental impact assessment will need to address water quality, beach amenity, coastal processes, Terrigal and Wamberal Lagoon entrances, the coastal reef areas, marine species, surf conditions, sand placement locations within the embayment and the establishment of a monitoring regime.

“If the final environmental impact assessment determines that the proposed beach nourishment will not have a significant environmental or social impact and an approval is granted, further consultation will occur with the community followed by a Council report seeking a resolution on whether to proceed with the implementation phase.

“The project management of these proposed works will be complex due to the scale of the nourishment proposed and the need to coordinate with a large construction project.

“This will result in issues such as timing, total volume of sand and quality control needing to be resolved.

“During Phase 1 consultation for the Wamberal Beach Terminal Protection and Sand Nourishment Investigation and Concept Design project, the importance of maintaining a sandy beach and beach amenity rated very highly in the survey results and comments.

“Further consultation on the options for beach nourishment are being undertaken as part of the Phase 2 consultation for this project during June and July 2021.”

Jackie Pearson