Battle over dredging hots up

JON HOUZET

AFFECTED SITE: Local surfers and residents
have objected to the disposal of dredge spoils from the marina canals in the East Beach
dunes, which they say contravenes the National Environmental Management
Act Picture: JON
HOUZET

A GROUP of Port Alfred surfers has laid a
criminal charge with the police in an attempt to stop emergency dredging of the
Royal Alfred Marina canals.

Jerome Boulle, one of the group of surfers,
cited contravention of the National Environmental Management
Act as the basis for their charge, but he
said it was up to the police to formulate the charge and decide who should be
charged.

Police spokesman Luvuyo Mjekula confirmed
that a case had been opened and would be investigated.

Boulle and fellow surfers, Mike Varela and
Justin Maddocks, along with resident Joy Hayes, have objected to the department
of economic development, environmental affairs and tourism (Dedeat) granting an
emergency dredging permit to the Royal Alfred Marina Homeowners Association
(Ramhoa) after dredging was stopped last year.

Dedeat had warned Ramhoa that an
environmental impact assessment (EIA) would have to be done before any
authorisation could be given.

The objectors are concerned over the damage
being done to the dunes by the disposal of silt from the river bed and use of a
grader to create berms to keep the dredge water from running into the sea.

It emerged this week that Ramhoa was
allowed to deviate
from a record of decision (ROD) in 2007 based on a fictitious
complaint by surfers at the time.

The 2007 ROD was granted after an EIA on dredging the Kowie River
and stipulated that
dredge spoils be
discharged in the surf zone.

In a departmental memorandum in December, Dedeat official Jan Kapp
referred to the 2007 ROD and stated: “A complaint was lodged by surfers against
this decision and the area in the pictures above [he included photos of the
current disposal site] was then agreed upon.”

However, no local surfers recall making any
objection at the time.

No recollection of this,” said Kowie Boardriders Club secretary Warwick Heny. “Ask Kapp
for written proof of this objection.”

Heny also said he had no idea who agreed to the current site, but
just knew that it was being used prior to 2007, before an EIA was required.

The current group of objectors also said
they had not heard of nor been part of an objection to the “surf zone”
discharge clause in the 2007 ROD.

“Who agreed to the current disposal site?
We didn’t,” said Varela.

“The whole point of Warwick’s e-mail poll
last year was to get the surfers to agree to have the silt dumped at sea. But
we went beyond that to investigate the current disposal site and say it
shouldn’t be happening at all,” he added.

“How is it
possible that this sludge can be dumped into the Coastal Protection Zone on our
front doorstep without any form of EIA, in direct contravention of the
Integrated Coastal Management Act?” said Boulle.

“The names of the
parties involved in taking this ‘emergency decision’, both on the government
side and the private side need to be made public in order that they are held
fully accountable.”

Ramhoa applied to dredge on an emergency
basis after new sandbanks formed in the marina canals and the entrance to the
small boat harbour after floods in October.

But a written response from Dedeat official
Dayalan Govender stated the silting up
of the entrances of the marina was not an emergency or crisis, but an
inconvenience at best.

He also said regulatory requirements “do not
differentiate the triggers of EIA listed activities based on circumstances” and
Dedeat could not authorise any emergency dredging without authorising ongoing
dredging.

However, after that correspondence, efforts
by two influential marina homeowners secured a dredging permit signed by Dedeat
head of department Bulumko Nelana.

After getting the permit, Ramhoa had to
seek further permission to dispose of the spoils, as the permit itself
advised Ramhoa
to dispose of dredged material onto “an appropriate place” and obtain the
necessary permission from Dedeat should dumping be made at sea.

Kapp was tasked with making a site visit
and preparing a recommendation to Dedeat general manager Albert Mfenyana, which
he did in December.

Ramhoa chairman Peter Bassett allowed TotT
to study the documents last week, but we were not allowed to have copies.

TotT sent queries to six Dedeat officials,
including Kapp, Govender, Mfenyana, Div de Villiers, Jaap Pienaar and Leon Els,
but had received no response at the time of going to press.

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