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Friday, February 5, 2010

Trouble up the Tamar

It’s not that the Tamar River in Northern Tasmania hasn’t always brought silt out the hills. Since early settlement times the river has required dredging. In fact, this constant attention resulted in the main port being relocated in the early 90s, from Launceston some 20 nm up the river mouth, to Bell Bay only 8 nm from the river mouth. But, in recent times the sedimentation problem around Launceston has reached critical dimensions. Within weeks, metres of a foul smelling silt was deposited along the city’s riverside promenade and filled the local marina. On the day of our visit, a 90-year-old wooden motor launch, The Eagle, sank at Launceston's Seaport. Some say it simply got stuck in the mud.

Launceston discharges effluent into the Tamar River and many sailors, walkers and concerned citizens are worried about dangerous microbes trapped within the silt. So, what is causing such a rapid build up? Some blame Gunns’ clear felling operations further up the North and South Esk Rivers that converge at Launceston.

Others blame the diverting of the two rivers' flow to feed a hydro-electric scheme. Both endeavors are new and probably share the blame. But what to do? Here no one agrees. Some point to the local council, while others want Gunns to correct the problem, suggesting they ship the silt back to the mountains, while still others believe the federal government should step in.

A study was commissioned, but no conclusions could be drawn - except Launceston is up the proverbial “shit’s creek without a paddle.” Meanwhile, don’t plan any voyages up to Launceston.

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