Plan OKed to Dredge, Dump in Great Barrier Reef Park

Environmental groups warn of dangers
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 31, 2014 7:27 AM CST
In this Sept. 2001 file photo provided by provided by Queensland Tourism, an aerial view shows the Great Barrier Reef off Australia's Queensland state.   (AP Photo/Queensland Tourism, File)
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(Newser) – The authority in charge of Australia's Great Barrier Reef Marine Park has given the final approval to a plan to dump millions of tons of dredging spoils into the park's waters, despite howls of protest from environmental groups and scientists. The dredging is part of a plan to expand the existing port at Abbot Point, which several companies want to use to export coal from the nearby Galilee Basin, the BBC explains. The park authority promises that there would be "strict environmental conditions" in place.

"It's important to note the seafloor of the approved disposal area consists of sand, silt, and clay and does not contain coral reefs or seagrass beds," the authority said." But 233 scientists have signed a letter warning that the plan endangers nearby marine life. The Australian Marine Conservation Society tells the AAP that any dumped fine sediment could drift as much as 50 miles. "There may not be coral reefs immediately where the dumping occurs," a society member said, "but there's certainly going to be coral reefs within 80km." You can see Greenpeace's summary of the dangers on this map.

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