Coast Guard wants bar dredged
THE Ballina river bar must be dredged to make conditions safer for boats, the Coast Guard has warned.
Commander Norm Lannoy said a sandbank had started to form on the outer bar.
“The sandbank is about 100 metres out and going halfway across the bar,” he said.
“At this stage it’s not stopping boats crossing the bar, but it is causing pressure waves.
“The conditions are getting really bad. You really need to time it well if you’re crossing the bar.
“We just want people to be aware of the conditions and to be careful.”
It’s a situation experienced by charity hospital ship, the Pacific Link, as it left Ballina last night.
The ship’s entry over the bar also had to be perfectly timed for the high tide, and even that was a close call.
Captain Jeremy Schierer confirmed the 37-metre Youth With a Mission vessel, with a draught of just over three metres – that’s the amount of ship beneath the water line – had a smidge over one metre in clearance as it arrived in Ballina for its week-long stay.
He said it wasn’t unusual to cross bars with so little clearance.
“But you need to know about it,” he said.
The ship had electronic gadgetry to make the crossing safely on what was a fine day, and had the back-up of paper charts as well.
However, ship’s director, Mike Mears, said that such little clearance was enough to give the captain or first mate on duty on the bridge a ‘heart attack’.
The Richmond River at Ballina was dredged until the 1970s, with significant dredging work taking place before 1911.
In 1972, the State Government retired its dredging fleet.
But the issue is now back on the agenda as the Government, in conjunction with Ballina Shire Council, gets closer to approving a commercial marina at the site of the RTA depot, known as Trawler Harbour. Negotiations are under way to relocate the RTA to North Ballina.
It is believed substantial dredging will have to be done to give ships access to any new marina.
However, the council’s civil services group manager, John Truman, said advice from the State Government was that it would not consider dredging proposals until the Estuary Management Plan was finalised.
“That plan, which was an extensive project undertaken by the Richmond River County Council, has only recently been completed,” he said.
“Whilst the council has a strong interest in the sustainable management of the river, the responsibility of that management is not within the council’s jurisdiction.
“Therefore, the council is of the view that funding of dredging activities is a State Government responsibility.”
A spokesperson for the Minister for Lands and Infrastructure, Tony Kelly, said work was under way to assess how the Ballina bar had changed.
“The Land and Property Management Authority has engaged consultants to survey the river bar at Ballina to determine how the entrance may have changed,” the spokesperson said.
“It is anticipated the results of the survey will be available early next month. Once the survey has been assessed by LPMA, Ballina Shire Council will be advised.”