An aerial view of Abbot Point’s Terminal 1 with its coal stockpile.
An aerial view of Abbot Point’s Terminal 1 with its coal stockpile. Contributed

WWF: Abbot Point dredge spoil underestimated

AN ENVIRONMENTAL group has claimed it has scientific evidence showing the Abbot Point Port dredge spoil has been underestimated and sediment will flow back into the Great Barrier Reef.

WWF Australia said yesterday they had received "alarming" advice regarding the Queensland Government's plans to dump dredge spoil into the Caley Valley wetlands at Abbot Point. They have submitted it to the government.

WWF Australia reef campaigner Louise Matthiesson said evidence from four scientists raised concerns proposed ponds may be too small to hold the dredge spoil; the amount of sediment flowing to the reef had been underestimated by up to 30%; and the impacts of acids had not been properly considered.

WWF said ponds proposed to store the dredge spoil would likely be too small, according to research by University of NSW engineer Brett Miller.

His research also said modelling underestimates by around 30% the amount of water and sediment to be discharged into the ocean from the ponds during the second dredging stage.

Ms Matthiesson said scientific concerns had been included in WWF's submission on the Queensland Government's Abbot Point proposal that Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt was considering.

"The world's best reef deserves the world's best management, but this is nowhere near the standard Australians expect for a huge project that will directly impact the Great Barrier Reef and a sensitive wetland," Ms Matthiesson said.

She said WWF was concerned because these fine sediments caused water pollution and would smother nearby seagrass beds.

But deputy premier Jeff Seeney said dumping dredge spoil onshore was the best option.

"The Abbot Point Port and Wetland Project is critical to the Queensland government's efforts to protect the Great Barrier Reef," Mr Seeney said.

"If approved, the project has the potential to stop dredged material from scheduled port development at Abbot Point being dumped at sea.

"Anyone who opposes land-based disposal is arguing in favour of dumping dredged material on the Reef."

The government is aiming for onshore dredge disposal options to be available by March when North Queensland Bulk Ports is authorised to begin dredging.