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Is granitic sand silting the Yarra?

02 Aug 2018

Is granitic sand silting the Yarra? Image

By Meg Hill

Silt build-up in the Yarra River around the Webb Bridge and Collins Landing may be largely due to the widespread use of granitic sand, according to long-time Yarra’s Edge resident Len Wright.

Mr Wright has been living in Yarra’s Edge for 16 years. During that time, granitic sand has been taken up for use by a number of different government and residential authorities operating near the river.

A decade ago it was placed in nature strips in the intersection of the Westgate and Wurundjeri Way and behind Lorimer St. Six years ago, it was placed around the trees on Yarra’s Edge, a few metres from the water.

Since then, it has been added to additional nature strips and similar adornments in the area.

Mr Wright showed Docklands News where the level of the sand in the nature strips had eroded away directly into a drain. He said he watches the trucks replenish the sand in the intersection at least a couple of times a year.

“It doesn’t consolidate; it blows away in the wind and washes away in the rain,” Mr Wright said.

At low tide, the sand is visible in the south side of the river next to the Webb Bridge, where caution buoys have been placed. Mr Wright estimates the water level there at low tide would be around 200mm.

Captain of Williamstown Charters Mick Trezise said the water level in that area is constantly decreasing.

“Particularly over at Collins Landing, it’s very shallow. We’ve hit the bottom there many times at low tide,” he said.

“The last twelve months it’s been getting worse. We try and keep clear of Collins Landing and we watch what the tide is doing.”

Mr Trezise said that he couldn’t however corroborate the theory regarding granitic sand.

“I don’t know much about granitic sand, but the river used to be naturally flushed out. There’s more moorings and things that stop the natural flow now,” he added.

Mr Wright said he believes there are a number of causes contributing to the problem: “I’m not saying all of it is granitic sand.”

He’s complained to a number of authorities multiple times over the years, including Melbourne City Council, VicRoads, the EPA and Parks Victoria.

He said that each time he complains to the council they “take notes, say they’ll pass the message on and they’re acting on it” but that he had seen “no action”.

Mr Wright said when he explained the issue to Parks Victoria they claimed it wasn’t their area.

“I said ‘you work for Parks Victoria, if I went and tipped four gallons of oil into that water you’d want to put me in jail. But this has been going on for years’,” said Mr Wright.

A joint statement from Parks Victoria and City of Melbourne began by defining the division of labour between the authorities: “City of Melbourne is the committee of management for Yarra’s Edge Marina, and Parks Victoria is the local waterway manager for the navigation channel in the Yarra River.”

It continued in reference to the Marina: “The granitic sand build up in the Yarra’s Edge Marina is in a non-navigable area near the edge of the river.”

“An investigation is currently being undertaken by City of Melbourne and measures are being taken to prevent and remove build-up of granitic materials in Yarra’s Edge Marina.”

In regards to the navigation channel it stated: “Silting in the Yarra River is a natural process that occurs from silts being deposited in sections of the river that have slower flows of water.”

“Vessel operators are responsible for the safe navigation of their vessel and should do all they can to ensure they operate safely on the river.”

The build up in the river has been a problem for years. When a fire caught at Yarra’s Edge Marina in 2012, a Port of Melbourne fire-fighting tug ran aground attempting to get close.

It was reported in Docklands News at the time that the same tug had performed fire-fighting demonstrations in the same location less than two years earlier without issue.

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