THE controversial dredging operation in the Kowie River looks set to resume after being put on hold in September last year.
Readers may remember that the Royal Alfred Marina Homeowners Association (Ramhoa) began dredging in the lower reaches of the Kowie River again last year after a hiatus of some years.
But Ramhoa acted based on an expired record of decision and referred to a letter from the municipality from 2001 as giving them permission to discharge sand into the East Beach dunes for “an indefinite period”.
The problem with that letter of permission was that the municipality does not have the authority to grant permission for a listed activity which requires an environmental impact assessment (EIA).
The discharge of sand had been taking place for years before that and it was only last year that a few surfers and other beach users became concerned enough about the environmental impact to ask Ndlambe nature conservation to intervene.
The stench of decaying organic matter dumped on the sand was the least of the dredging opponents’ worries. They were concerned the dredge disposal and use of a bulldozer to grade the area – which resembled a blackened salt pan – was interfering in the natural formation of dunes.
Ndlambe in turn asked the department of economic development, environmental affairs and tourism (Dedeat) for assistance and a delegation of officials visited the dredge disposal site in September.
They were tight-lipped but said they would investigate. Soon after that Ramhoa stopped dredging.
The floods a month later helped clear a channel on the left side of the river going out to sea, but created new sandbanks where they had never before, including at the entrance to the small boat harbour and northern entrances to some of the canals.
This created a new urgency to dredge again, but Dedeat’s initial response was that it was not an emergency but an inconvenience to boat users at best.
So it was strange to learn this week that some high-ups in the department changed their minds since then and have given Ramhoa a special permit to conduct emergency dredging.
Marina manager Angus Schlemmer said dredging would be limited to the harbour entrance and northern entrances to the canals, and silt discharged in the East Beach dune pocket as before.
TotT has not had sight of this document as Ramhoa says it is “private”.
Dedeat itself has not responded to our queries.
This raises suspicions and we believe both Ramhoa and Dedeat should be forthcoming about an activity which concerns all residents, not just marina property owners and boat owners.
– Jon Houzet