The deepening of the shipping channel in Port Phillip Bay that ran from to February 2008 to November 2009 has been criticised for not having a business case and for the environmental damage it would cause.
The project proceeded with approvals from the Victorian state government (Tim Pallas, Minister for Roads and Ports) and the Australian federal government (Peter Garrett, Environment Minister) with assurances and reports stating that no environmental damage would result.
I visited Portsea Front Beach on 20 June 2010 and was amazed to see the beach almost completely gone. Waves were pounding at the footing of the Portsea pier that has been there for several decades, and at the vegetation that used to be protected by a reasonable beach. People sunbathed on the beach, and I remember it stretching a third of the distance to the first landing on the pier.
Two large erosion barrages were in place to stop the footing of the pier being destroyed. Two things struck me - the height of the water and the size of the waves. Both were much higher than my memories for the past.
Increased water flow speed and volume through the Port Phillip Bay heads after the Channel Deepening Project is a possible and likely cause of this. However, this has been denied by the authority charged with monitoring the environmental impact of the project.
The Victorian State Government seems to have made no comment on this to date.
Here are the photos of 20 June 2010.
I returned on Monday 23 August 2010. The protection barrages were gone and a lot of rock had been placed around the base of the pier where it connects to the shore.
We passed three B-Double trucks full of sand that was being delivered to the beach. Another truck was dumping its load near the pier. Two front end loaders were pushing the sand along the beach attempting to restore it. There was a massive plume of sand as it was being washed away almost immediately out to sea. It looks like a very expensive and loosing battle.
A local told me they had "rebuilt" the beach a week ago but that most it had then been stripped way again. The front end loaders were perilously close to toppling into the waves as their sand ramp was being eroded.
- Channel deepening project, Wikipedia
- Life's not so swell on the beach at Portsea, Adam Morton, The Age, June 5, 2010
- Tides of change strip Portsea of its sand, Lauren Wilson, The Australian May 10, 2010
- Dredging blamed for Portsea beach erosion, Alison Caldwell, May 5, 2010
- Portsea Front Beach erosion, Greenlivingpedia