Falmouth dredging trial gets green light
9:38am Friday 13th July 2012 in Falmouth/Penryn
A small-scale dredging trial will go ahead in Falmouth harbor it was granted permission by the Marine Marine Management Organisation.
The trial, which will be carried out independently by Plymouth University’s Marine Institute, will measure possible environmental impacts of dredging on the maerl beds that inhabit the seafloor in the area.
The trial results are expected play a vital role in the decision whether give the all-important green light for a £25 million capital dredging project for the port to begin next year.
Proposals to dredge a deep water channel into the docks have been held back by concerns around the impact of moving maerl, a calcified seaweed that covers the seabed in parts of the Fal, and the effect this could have on the aquatic species living among it.
Less than two per cent of dead maerl within the special area of conservation (SAC) in Falmouth Harbour will be affected by the dredging proposals together with a small area of live maerl.
The approach channel into the inner harbour currently has a minimum depth of 5.1 metres, which is shallow by the standards of modern ports, making it unsuitable for larger vessels, particularly the ever-increasing demand for visiting cruise ships.
Harbour bosses claim that without dredging, Falmouth’s future as a thriving working port would be threatened.
They say that dredging a channel will safeguard existing port functions and open up new opportunities by accommodating larger vessels, including those that can support the growing marine energy industry.
The next step is to ask specialist dredging contractors who expressed an interest in the dredging earlier this year to tender for the work.
Falmouth Harbor Master Mark Sansom, said: “We are pleased that the process is moving forward. This is an important step towards providing more evidence for consideration by the MMO in reaching a decision on the proposals for dredging a deep water channel into the docks.”
James Cross, chief executive of the Marine Management Organisation said: “We have agreed to the trial as it will provide information on the extent to which maerl and its associated communities survive and recover from translocation.
"The methodology has been reviewed and supported by an independent scientific advisory panel, which has been established to advise the MMO on the scientific robustness of the trial. We will review information from the trial, and other further evidence, to inform future licensing decisions on the Port of Falmouth development.”
The scientific trial could begin as early as August and take place over six months.