DREDGING in the Kowie River is set to resume after the Royal Alfred Marina Homeowners Association (Ramhoa) secured a permit to dredge sandbars left by floods in October.
Marina manager Angus Schlemmer said Ramhoa also had permission to dispose of the silt in the East Beach dune pocket as before, the site of much controversy after surfers and other local residents protested about the negative environmental impact.
Ramhoa was forced to suspend its dredging activities in September after officials from the department of economic development, environmental affairs and tourism (Dedeat) visited the site and found Ramhoa was dredging based on an expired record of decision (ROD).
After new sandbanks formed after the floods, Ramhoa appealed to Dedeat to be able to undertake emergency dredging, as well as resume ongoing dredging operations in the marina canals and the river itself.
In a circular to marina residents on November 13, Schlemmer said there was particular concern about the large sandbanks at the northern end of some of the canals and at the entrance to the small boat harbour.
But in a response he forwarded from Dedeat later that month, the department stated: “The silting up of the entrances of the marina cannot be regarded as an emergency or crisis, at best it is an inconvenience for boat owners.”
Dedeat reminded Ramhoa that their dredging ROD expired and a new environmental impact assessment (EIA) would have to be undertaken before any environmental authorisation could be granted.
“Acting without an authorisation will result in enforcement action and I would advise that in the interim boat owners work around the tides and consider moving their boats via trailers to launch sites within the Kowie,” the Dedeat correspondence stated.
But Schlemmer said two Ramhoa members were of “invaluable assistance in pushing for permission to dredge on an emergency basis” and on Monday he said Dedeat had granted Ramhoa a permit in terms of Section 3 (2) of the Sea Shore Act as early as November 14.
He would not provide a copy to TotT as he said it was a “private document”.
“The permit authorises dredging of the sandbars at the entrance to the small boat harbour and the northern canal entrances to the marina. Dredging will be restricted accordingly. The Kowie River will not be dredged,” he said.
He confirmed dredged material would be deposited in the East Beach dune pocket as before.
He also said Ramhoa was in the process of having an EIA done and would apply to be able to resume ongoing maintenance dredging of the canals and the river itself.
Two local surfers, Mike Varela and Jerome Boulle, and resident Joy Hayes who often walks along East Beach, were outraged.
“We absolutely oppose any further destruction of the dunes behind East Beach,” Varela said.
In a statement he prepared with Hayes on behalf of the other dredging opponents, Varela disputed Ramhoa’s assertion that the document was private.
“It’s a matter of public interest,” he said.
He also said the permit was “a 180 degree contradiction of the earlier official communication from Dedeat”.
“Either a meeting did take place and a private document was generated for a wealthy minority in contradiction to Dedeat’s own framework or rules, or no such document exists, in which case it wouldn’t be the first time phantom documents have been invoked to facilitate the ends of Ramhoa,” he said.
Dedeat spokesman Sixolile Makaula and other Dedeat officials including senior manager Dayalan Govender did not respond to TotT’s queries.
Responding to other questions relating to the dredging, Schlemmer revealed that the Small Boat Harbour Company contributed R95 000 toward the dredging a few years ago.
He denied that the dredging was for the exclusive benefit of Ramhoa members.
“It benefitted all river and sea users including the NSRI. The sandbank at Kiddies Beach was not ignored. The dredger had to return to the marina for maintenance dredging,” he said.
Ramhoa has been unable to use the dredger in the marina canals, small boat harbour or in the main channel of the river.