Two of East Gippslands most beautiful coastal areas are set to suffer serious assault this week. As Mallacoota’s most beautiful beach starts to be encased under an industrial concrete boat launch and car park, Lakes Entrance is also, once again, to be dug out to a depth that is killing the ecosystem of this Ramsar listed wetland and internationally renowned chain of coastal freshwater lakes.
For the expedience of the offshore oil and gas industry, the Lakes are being left to die.
For 120 years the entrance to the chain of lakes has been dredged – but only to a shallow depth for smaller boats. Since 2008 the Gippsland Ports authority has doubled the dredging depth without looking at environmental impacts.
WHY? Because the offshore oil and gas rigs wanted their huge service vessels to be able to dock at Lakes Entrance. Without any Environment Effects Statement (EES), both the state and federal governments allowed this to occur.
THE RESULT? Immediate killing off of the Lakes freshwater ecosystem; many water birds have left, toxic marine algal blooms have increased, trees and fringing vegetation is dying from salinity, sandworms have died, massive mussel kills, seagrass die back, starving Black Swans, there are now five species of sharks in the Lakes, stingrays and squid. Spawning Bream are forced into the rivers to find freshwater, but are being slaughtered at the river mouths by the professional gill netters. What juvenile Bream survive, can’t find enough seagrass to shelter in for protection.
And by the way – our East Gippsland National Party MP Tim Bull supports all this. He also has very close connections with the local stable of newspapers, having been a local journalist in his previous life.
The EPA’s monthly water quality monitoring acknowledges there has been a serious increase in salinity since the dredging depth has almost doubled.
But wait, there’s more … The need for an EES was waivered and the permit to dredge was rushed through both State and Federal governments in about 3 months. Despite this bleedingly obvious death of so much of the Lakes freshwater system, there has never been any ecological assessment.
IS THERE A SOLUTION? Yes – it’s very simple. With submerged salt barriers placed at strategic sites, the flow of heavier salty water spreading through the lakes system would be stopped. If the authorities and government are all too weak to stand up to the fossil fuel industry heavies, this is a simple cost effective solution. But denial seems to be their preferred option; economically cheap, but politically costly!
Read more about the dredging impacts here