The results from a trial looking into the potential effect of dredging a deeper approach channel to Falmouth Docks have now been reported, but it is still not known when a final decision will be made over the future of the project.
The findings have been sent to the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) and will provide robust scientific data that will be used to update the environmental statement that was submitted along with the original dredging application.
The MMO will use this information to undertake a new appropriate assessment in due course.
The report was commissioned by Falmouth Harbour Commissioners, one of the partners in the Port of Falmouth Development Initiative (PoFDI), with a significant funding contribution from Cornwall Council.
The trial was specifically designed to provide the MMO with further information relating to questions raised by Natural England about the impact on the inhabiting communities if dead maerl was relocated as a mitigation measure for the dredge.
Captain Mark Sansom, chief executive and harbour master at Falmouth Harbour Commissioners (FHC), said: “The undertaking of this trial is a significant step forward in allowing the application to dredge the approach channel to be determined.
“We are grateful for the financial support given by Cornwall Council that allowed the trial dredge to take place as well as the outstanding support of Plymouth University in designing and executing the experimental aspects of the study.
“We believe that the use of trials such as this to ensure that data is available to support decision making is a promising development that may facilitate other projects going forward.
“We are grateful to the MMO and its independent scientific advisory panel for pioneering this approach.”
Professor Martin Attrill, director of the Marine Institute, Plymouth University, said: “We believe this is the first time in the world that such an experimental trial has been undertaken and highlights the depth of expertise the Marine Institute represents.
“The trial has been logistically demanding and the novel science has only been possible through the logistic support and practical expertise available within Falmouth harbour.”