Myall Estuary access narrows with navigational markers moved

One of the green Tea Gardens ferries.

NAVIGATION markers along the Myall Estuary have been quietly moved as the sand-sedimentation problem swiftly flows up the Myall Estuary to Tea Gardens riverfront.

The green starboard marker poles, put in place to keep watercraft from running aground, have actually had to be picked up and moved 20 metres closer to Tea Gardens riverfront, according to skippers and crew on both operating ferries.

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“They have moved the markers to indicate the safe passage, as they must, about 20m closer to Tea Gardens, effectively narrowing the boat lane in front of Tea Gardens by half,” Y-Knot’s Noel Gaunt told NOTA.

“They will have to move it again before Easter, with the spit that’s forming directly across from the hotel and public wharf – we hit that three months ago.”

The Y-Knot catamaran ferry was actually out of commission for several days recently, due to mud in its water pickups, which Mr Gaunt claims has come down from upstream, adding to the narrowing Tea Gardens channel.

“I have no doubt that the mud is sediment coming down from the rains, finished in the Lakes and now meeting the sand that is coming in from the Bay, neutralising each other’s movement power and settling here.”

The Tea Gardens Ferry service, known locally as ‘the green ferry’, reports similar sedimentation-sand problems.

“We are also seeing silt come in from downstream,” James Welsh, the Ferry’s Captain and Operations Manager told NOTA.

“On king and spring tides, we need to choose which of our three vessels to use, they have different sizes and lengths.

“At certain spots we need to slow down due to sand at the west-leading dogleg into the Bay, to avoid touching the bottom on low tides, while up past Winda Woppa we are touching in a few spots.”

Both ferry operators agree that the narrowing adjacent to Tea Gardens, and the plethora of other issues downstream, definitely should be addressed, saying, “the waterways used to be safe and clear, these problems have not always been there, and not that long ago, either”.

Any pedestrian walking along the riverfront or bridge can see the low-tide sand build-ups all around the estuary, including the island under the bridge, and the new spit across from the pub.

By Thomas O’KEEFE

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