Eastern Channel dredging assessment
LAST month marine aggregate operators published a comprehensive regional environmental assessment (REA) against which vital plans for dredging in the eastern English Channel can be judged.
"The industry has warned that existing reserves, on which supplies to London and the South-East depend, are dwindling and it has identified the deeper waters of the eastern English Channel as a potential long-term replacement. Six operators, who are between them seeking 10 new dredging licences, commissioned the REA to test the cumulative impacts of their operations and have formed the East Channel Association (ECA) to fund the work."
Copies of the 160-page REA are being sent to over 100 stakeholders and it will be considered by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) as it makes its decisions on the separate licence applications.
"Applications have been submitted to the ODPM seeking permission to extract sand and gravel for initial 15-year periods from part of the eastern English Channel, some 20 miles off the Sussex coastline."
"Based on current demand, ECA members envisage initially extracting a total of 8.5 million tonnes a year from the 15-year licences. A higher production level of 17 million tonnes is also tested in the REA to account for increases in construction or coastal defence demand in the years ahead, or a shift in government policy away from land-based aggregates in favour of marine."
"The 8.5 million tonnes annually would come from a 15-year total of 50km2, however in any one year the seabed area typically dredged would be only 10km2."
ECA spokesman Dr Andrew Bellamy said: ‘The REA has thoroughly tested the cumulative effects of all the dredging applications in the region and we can now say with confidence that these would be minor given our pledge to minimize the area dredged and to research and monitor the effects of dredging.’
The ECA has committed to a charter guaranteeing that each company would implement the REA’s provisions and the ensuing studies and research that it recommends. The Association has also made a firm commitment to close liaison with other stakeholders and to make data available publicly.