The Draft Environmental Impact Statement [EIS] for the proposed Port Bonython Bulk Export Facility was released on the 3rd of October 2013. An opportunity for public comment and submissions closes on 18th November. Cuttlefish Country is pleased to report that the Whyalla-based Alternative Port Working Party [APWP] is currently analysing the document and associated appendices. They have raised concerns publicly over many years in regard to this project whilst at concept stage. The APWP is a group of post-career engineers with professional expertise and decades of experience in the practicalities of iron ore mining, shipping and bulk logistics. Documents obtained by Cuttlefish Country under the Freedom of Information Act have revealed that plans to develop such a facility reach back at least as far as 2006. The proposal was put to tender, with the Spencer Gulf Port Link consortium winning the opportunity to proceed with a development application in 2008.
After partial consideration of the EIS, the Alternative Port Working Party’s major concerns include:
Impact on the marine environment and ecology
Cape vessel propellers typically measure 8 metres in diameter and will disturb the seafloor due to the lack of natural under-keel clearance. This will lead to increased turbidity and material displacement within the shipping channel and the deposition of displaced material on adjacent areas of Upper Spencer Gulf. Much of this area to be impacted lies within the Upper Spencer Gulf Marine Park. Iconic marine species of the region include the Giant Australian Cuttlefish, Bottlenosed Dolphin, Tiger Pipefish, Blue Swimmer Crab, Snapper, Western King Prawn and other commercially fished species. Humpback and Southern Right Whales also visit the region during winter. Potential noise pollution and collision impacts to the Southern Right Whale, Eubalaena australis, led the Federal Environment Department to determine that the proposal would also require approval under the Environment Protection Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act. This approval is yet to be granted.
Loss of tourism, recreation and liveability
The proposal’s terrestrial footprint features iron-ore storage sheds, a conveyor gantry and rail infrastructure of significant scale. The construction and operation of these will result in the degradation of the landscape and skyline of the Point Lowly Peninsula. The peninsula is home to many coastal residents, and is also a beloved holiday or weekend destination for many travellers. The areas’s main attractions include the heritage Point Lowly Lighthouse, scenic views across the gulf to the Flinders Ranges, land and boat-based fishing, diving, snorkelling and camping. If constructed, the facility is also likely to establish exclusion zones limiting certain activities in the interests of public safety.
Lack of consideration of Alternative sites
Selecting an alternative port location south of Whyalla could alleviate many of the environmental, social and logistical problems associated with the proposed facility’s location. The tidal limitations of the proposed approach are shown in the bathymetric chart below. Ships have to ride the tide over the tip of Fairway Bank, which begs the question: will a dredging application follow as shipping traffic increases, after the port is approved?
Some additional information from Appendix J and discussed in Chapter 13 of the EIS, which relates to sea bed disturbance can be downloaded below. It shows the shipping channel and refers to approx 20 kms of channel subject to propeller wash and seabed disturbance. This will have implications for seagrass and filter-feeding organisms, as well as the iconic marine species of the region.
The EIS documentation is available online at spencergulfportlink.com.au or www.sa.gov.au/planning/majordevelopments. Hard copies are available at the Whyalla Library and Council office. A data CD can also be purchased for $10, which provides the document’s appendices.
Have your questions answered
A public meeting regarding the EIS for the Spencer Gulf Port Link – Port Bonython Bulk Commodities Export Facility was held by the Department of Planning ,Transport and Infrastructure on Tuesday 29th Oct at the Oasis Board Room of the Westlands Hotel in Whyalla. The event attracted a crowd of 45 people whose questions kept the Development Assessment Commission and project staff busy for two hours. An account of the meeting was published in the Whyalla News. If you have questions or concerns about this project, you should consider making a written submission.
Template EIS submission coming soon
Cuttlefish Country and the APWP are currently preparing a template submission which will be available for the general public and other interested parties to modify and submit, ahead of the submission deadline, November 18th, 2013.