Dumping in the Great Barrier Reef still an option for GPC

OFFSHORE dumping of up to 12 million cubic metres of dredge spoil in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is still on the table at Gladstone Harbour.

A Gladstone Ports Corporation proposal to duplicate two shipping channels in the harbour is currently being assessed by the federal Environment Department.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt last year said offshore dumping should be the last option considered for disposing of the dredge spoil should the project go ahead.

He said at the time that it was his intention that "the first priority" be given to "shoreline, near to shore or land reclamation disposal".

But despite his comments, guidelines for the environmental impact statement for the project, issued by his department last month, specifically highlight offshore disposal was still an option.

The filing of those documents also comes as the World Heritage Committee last week warned more approvals in the World Heritage Area could see the entire reef could be put on the WHC "in danger" list next year.

"The project footprint is located within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area and the Great Barrier Reef National Heritage place," the document reads.

"Offshore disposal of dredge material may occur inside the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park."

The guidelines also highlighted that alternatives and reasons for selecting the "preferred option and rejecting the alternatives" should be provided in the EIS for the project.

A spokesman for Mr Hunt said the proponent was "currently evaluating options" and such information would be considered in a public review of the EIS.

GPC chief executive Craig Doyle said at the time the channel duplication project wouldn't be needed for several years unless port trade expanded above current forecasts.

He said the harbour already has capacity to deal with existing expansions of LNG and coal export projects, and the latest project would not take place within three years.

A spokeswoman for GPC has further clarified that the port has been working on preparing the EIS "sometime in the next two years".

"The trigger for channel duplication will be if port trade expands past the current planned levels in the future," she said.

"This will include options for any potential disposal of dredge spoil as required and will be in full consultation with the relevant state and federal government agencies and other stakeholders.

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