The South Australian Government has today approved a plan to widen the Port Adelaide shipping channel and dump the dredged waste in Gulf St Vincent.
The controversial Flinders Ports plan involves removing 1.5 million cubic metres of material from the Outer Harbor shipping channel before being disposed 30 kilometres offshore.
Planning Minister Stephan Knoll said he was "extremely comfortable" that the project was environmentally safe. "Ships are being built larger and larger and there's a real risk that if we don't widen our channels that we will not be able to accept larger cruise ships and larger export ships," Mr Knoll said.
The plan was met with resistance from fishers and environmental groups, who said it would harm surrounding marine life.
Flinders Ports dredged 3 million cubic metres of silt from the Port River in 2005, resulting in a dredge plume off Adelaide, killing about 1,600 hectares of seagrass.
Enviromental concerns continue
In a statement published on its website today, the Environment Protection Authority said the latest proposal would result in "significantly less than 250ha" of die-off.
Greens MLC Mark Parnell said it was too much. "We're putting less sewage out to sea, we're trying to capture stormwater before it goes out to sea because they destroy seagrass — now we're deliberately destroying 250 hectares of seagrass," Mr Parnell said.
Mr Knoll said "almost all of the concerns have been addressed" and no fauna would be lost. "I'm extremely comfortable that this is environmentally safe, that this can be done in an appropriate manner, that there is appropriate monitoring to make sure that we learn the mistakes of 2005 so we can really get back to unlocking these great economic benefits that will result as a cause of this project," he said.
Port Adelaide Enfield Mayor Gary Johanson pushed for the silt to be dumped on land at Gillman while running as an SA Best candidate for Port Adelaide in the March state election.
He said he was devastated by the decision. "I just believe we have such a great clean green reputation in this state that we could be putting that at risk if this goes wrong," Mr Johanson said.
A consultant's report for the EPA said risks associated with the ocean-dumping proposal were "reasonable". It said land-based options were only feasible if it could not be dumped in the sea.
Mr Knoll said a full environmental impact report would be published later today.
Former Planning Minister John Rau asked for one in February, when Mr Johanson was looking like a threat to local Labor MP Susan Close.