Department of Transport releases recommendations on Port Geographe review

The Department of Transport is seeking community feedback on its review of the Port Geographe coastline reconfiguration performance.

The technical review has made ten recommendations and five have been released for feedback on July 27.

The review which began in February 2020 has recommended changes to the current wrack dispersion and sand bypassing programs as well investigations of options to address ongoing sea wrack accumulation and erosion issues.

For 22 years Port Geographe residents have endured the effects of unnatural seagrass wrack along the coastline and multiple interventions with little success.

In early December 2019, 450 residents rallied to show their frustration over the build up of sea grass.

At the time there was 20,000 cubic metres of built up sea grass on Western Beach.

As a result of the outcry, the Department of Transport partnered with the City of Busselton to establish a technical working group in February to assess the performance of the reconfigured structures and recommend actions to further improve performance.

"Residents need, and deserve, a solution to this ongoing saga."

South West MLC Adele Farina

Assessment of 34 improvement ideas for the Western Beach, Wonnerup Beach, the marina entrance channel and lagoon included four community submissions.

Key recommendations include:

  1. Trial of wrack pushing (with machinery) on the Western Beach earlier in winter prior to suitable winter storms (from July) to assist the natural flow, reduce accumulation and potentially reduce the amount of wrack entering the entrance channel.
  2. To improve access to the Western Beach, investigate an alternative approach with different measures to the Environmental Monitoring and Management Plan.
  3. Investigation of low-profile groynes on Western Beach to reduce local sand erosion.
  4. Trial the redistribution of excess sand accumulated in the near shore water from the western end of the Port Geographe Coastal Management Area by dredging or trucking to Wonnerup Beach.
  5. Reuse of the small volume of clean dredged sand accumulated at offshore disposal area to replace sand at Wonnerup.

City of Busselton Mayor Grant Henley said there was a stakeholder presentation last week which went well.

"We are very grateful for the support of residents who attended and contributed to the discussion," he said.

Mayor Henley said every winter there would be a build up of wrack on Western Beach and with the early storms in 2020 there was currently a substantial amount.

"Which is a cause of concern for the city and residents alike," he said.

South West MLC Adele Farina said it was disappointing that the reconfiguration works had not been successful, despite significant government investment.

"There is no doubt this has been incredibly frustrating for the Port Geographe community," she said.

"The draft Technical Working Group report is too focused on low cost management options rather than fixing this two-decade-old problem and does not properly address it. "As the former chair of the Port Geographe Working Group, I have a significant interest in this project and understand the difficulties surrounding it.

"The fatal flaw of the previous design remains.

"The design of the Western Beach requires the trap area to be saturated with sand in order to facilitate natural wrack and sand bypassing.

"The trap area needs to be fully saturated with sand and may need sand bags to retain the sand.

"Without this, the trap will continue to fill with wrack that is very difficult to move naturally."

Port Geographe resident Peter Maccora was unable to attend the review meeting last week but had been involved in submitting options.

"The options proposed by the department are worth considering as clearly the $29 million spent on the groyne reconfiguration has not delivered the outcomes everyone had been hoping for," he said.

Port Geographe resident Peter Maccora.

Port Geographe resident Peter Maccora.

"Currently the volume of seagrass wrack that's trapped on the western beach is as bad as it was prior to the groyne reconfiguration."

Mr Maccora said he was concerned about option four in the recommendations.

"The whole premise of the groyne reconfiguration was that the western beach required saturating with sand and to propose extracting sand from the area specified may have a detrimental effect," he said.

"It seems the department has looked at removing sand from this area based on costs, as it is far cheaper than obtaining sand from an external source. The other four recommendations are in line with what we believe will help in the long term."

Ms Farina said the report was a welcome step in the right direction.

"But it needs to acknowledge the cause and the fix to finally resolve this matter," she said.

"Residents need, and deserve, a solution to this ongoing saga."

Department director of coastal facilities Donna West said while five recommendations have been prioritised to develop a program of works for the next two years,10 of the 34 ideas assessed had been recommended.

"There has been a long history of community involvement at Port Geographe and responses to a specially developed online survey about the recommendations will be carefully considered," Ms West said.

"Residents and the broader community are encouraged to participate and have their say by Sunday 23 August 2020."

For a copy of the report or to comment, visit: transport.wa.gov.au/portgeographe