Gatcombe and Golding Cutting Channel Duplication project – Environmental Impact Statement

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Gatcombe and Golding Cutting Channel Duplication Project – Environmental Impact Statement, Australia

Completing the major environmental impact statement for the Port of Gladstone’s future expansion

As an island nation, Australia relies on its ports for much of its international trade and the provision of adequate sea port capacity and modern sea port facilities are therefore fundamental to the national economy.

During the 2019/2020 financial year, a total of 1,783 commercial ships visited the Port of Gladstone, in Central Queensland. That’s approximately 34 ships each week – with the majority destined to carry commodity items to customers in eastern Australia, Asia and beyond.

Growth in trade is strongly linked to economic growth for a region, and the Gladstone Ports Corporation initiated the Gatcombe and Golding Cutting Channel Duplication project to allow for improved two-way passage by deepening and widening the existing channels. This will allow passage for larger vessels under all weather and tidal conditions.

Aurecon was engaged to complete an Environmental Impact Statement to support the project approval process.

A significant milestone has been achieved with Commonwealth and Queensland Government approvals of the final environmental impact statement (EIS), indicating that the project can proceed to the next stage, paving the way to increasingly efficient commodity movement and regional economic growth in the future.

Key to this project, was working collaboratively with Gladstone Ports Corporation to navigate the complexity of both State and Commonwealth environmental impact statement approvals. Approval requirements were considered jointly to address the Commonwealth and Queensland Government legislation requirements.

Pre-planning now, for the future later

The project will see the port’s existing Gatcombe and Golding Cutting bypass channels expanded to an ultimate depth of -16.1 metres LAT (Lowest Astronomical Tide) and width of 200 metres, allowing for the passage of vessels with larger capacities, improved operational efficiencies and enhanced vessel movement safety in the channels.

As Australia’s premiere multi-commodity port, the Port of Gladstone plays a crucial role in Gladstone’s billion-dollar economy. Gladstone Ports Corporation has an ambitious plan to triple the port’s trade – from 100 million tonnes to 300 million tonnes – over the next 50 years.

Doing the pre-planning, with the EIS now approved for the long-term project, means the port will be ready to expand when the time comes.

The project will involve dredging approximately 12.6 million cubic metres of seabed material to deepen the existing Gatcombe and Golding Cutting bypass shipping channels, as well as initial dredging of 0.25 million cubic metres to allow access for barges to remove dredged material.

The project also involves the establishment of a new reclamation area within the Port of Gladstone to beneficially reuse the capital dredged material.

Taking into account community, stakeholders and marine ecology

The environmental impact statement took into account comments received during the consultation period. Stakeholder engagement focused on groups who had the greatest potential to be impacted by the dredging and reclamation activities.

The views of the broader community were taken into consideration through wider community engagement activities and the monitoring of public opinion.

Aurecon’s work also considered:

  • The associated shipping demand and anticipated changes in shipping fleets in the future
  • The environmental impact on the marine environment and the ecological impact on sea creatures and how to mitigate potential impacts to the receiving environment
  • The environmental commitments needed during all phases of the project to avoid and mitigate environmental impacts
  • The development of appropriate EIS approval conditions

Detailed environmental management plans and a monitoring program were developed as part of the EIS. A focus on marine dredging and reclamation to move the dredged material and minimise impacts on marine water quality and ecology was incorporated. It also included a project draft offset strategy for the dredging and reclamation area to be implemented by the project owners.

This set out ways to mitigate any residual significant impacts on ecological values and develop and implement strategies that would contribute to a beneficial conservation outcome for the flora and fauna species and associated habitat.

The comprehensive EIS

The comprehensive EIS addressed all potential environmental, social and economic impacts in accordance with environmental and planning legislation and associated terms of reference and guidelines at the Commonwealth and Queensland Government levels.

It was an important first step in the process to improve the operational and economic efficiencies of the port, paving the way to allow the area’s design process to commence.

To remain competitive in the international market, the port needed to provide deeper access channels for larger vessels and ensure vessel safety so that improved operational and economic efficiencies could be realised.

The Gatcombe and Golding Cutting Channel Duplication project will do just that, for Gladstone’s port to respond to increased shipping demands in the future and continue to contribute to the local and national economy.

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