DREDGING of the Kowie River and disposal of the spoils on East Beach has been stopped pending the outcome of an investigation by the provincial department of economic development and environmental affairs (Dedea).
Last week Dedea officials visited the dredge disposal site after Ndlambe’s deputy director of community protection services, Fanie Fouche, forwarded the concerns of four Port Alfred residents who made a formal complaint about the damage done to the dunes.
Dedea senior manager Dayalan Govender confirmed “the matter is being addressed” but said only their communications manager Sixolile Makaula could respond in detail to TotT’s queries.
However, Makaula has not responded.
The residents who made the complaint meanwhile have objected to being excluded from the on-site meeting between the Dedea officials, Ndlambe officials and representatives of the Royal Alfred Marina Homeowners Association (Ramhoa).
Ramhoa has been dredging the lower reaches of the Kowie River on behalf of the municipality, in addition to dredging the marina’s own canals.
Surfer Mike Varela, who has been leading a campaign to stop the dredge disposal in the East beach dunes, said he came across the Dedea delegation and Ndlambe officials by chance in one of the East Beach parking lots last Wednesday.
“If the marina guys were there and we weren’t then there’s something unequal going on,” said Varela.
Joy Hayes, another of the signatories to the letter of complaint about the dredge disposal, agreed it was “irregular” that they were excluded from the on-site meeting.
Fouche told TotT it was an impromptu meeting and the Dedea officials only had an hour to spare. He said once Dedea had completed its investigation, there would be a meeting with “all stakeholders”.
“I tried to get my word in anyway,” said Varela. “Even speaking as a layman on dune formation, the burden of proof is on the person doing the actions – the people dumping the dredge spoils – that it doesn’t impact on the dunes.”
Varela has pressed for the affected area to be rehabilitated.
He also raised the issue of Ramhoa recommencing dredging and disposal of spoils based on an expired environmental authorisation from 2007. According to that record of decision (ROD) by Dedea, dredging had to start within six months of authorisation and had to be completed within 12 months of commencement.
The dredge disposal site is also in question. The ROD said dredge spoils must be discharged on the East Beach “surf zone”.
“Govender from Dedea said they would have to look at their files. He suggested the marina might have later approval, yet they cited the 2007 ROD [in Ramhoa’s notice it would recommence dredging],” Varela said.
“Govender was more into the idea that a phantom document exists than being appalled at what’s happened to the dunes.”
Ramhoa insists it has current approval to dredge and dispose of the spoils in the East Beach dunes.
As evidence, marina manager Angus Schlemmer faxed TotT a letter from the municipality to Ramhoa dated January 2001, which states “permission (to discharge sand into the dunes) is granted for an indefinite period”.
The main concern then was over what effect the discharge would have on the dune water scheme. An investigation by Groundwater Consulting Services concluded it would have no effect.
Hayes said a “smear campaign” had been started against Varela with a number of text messages attacking him in TotT’s sister newspaper The Herald on Monday.
Anonymous calls of harassment have been made to another of the signatories, Jerome Boulle. Boulle was not home at the time, but his wife Lorraine said a man who did not identify himself told her to pass on a message to her husband to “butt out of the dredging” and “keep your own house in order before you stick your nose where it’s not wanted”.
“Fanie said it was an unscheduled visit by the Dedea guys who were on their way to Aliwal North,” said Varela.