Wollongong and Shellharbour council will carry out "small-scale" dredging in Lake Illawarra, and will investigate the need for widespread dredging over the next 10 years as part of a $72 million management plan for the lake.
According to the draft Lake Illawarra Coastal Management Plan (CMP), which will likely be adopted by both councils this week, there is widespread support for dredging, with two thirds of all public submissions on the report calling for dredging to be done.
As a result of this, the councils have included two new actions in the management plan, which will allow for small scale dredging around recreational infrastructure and investigates the opportunities for larger scale 'bay wide' dredging.
The CMP will guide the management of the lake between 2020 and 2030, and has a focus on dealing with the "threats" to the lakes health and environmental value. It aims to improve the water quality, manage changes to the lake entrance, protect vegetation in and around the lake, and prepare for climate change induced inundation.
After community feedback, it also includes extra measures to increase the tourism and recreational opportunities, and is estimated to cost $72.8M over 10 years.
According to a report to Wollongong council, the support for dredging - which has long been controversial - came primarily from Shellharbour residents who were concerned about "the general shallowness of the water body and impact to use of recreational infrastructure".
The report says dredging has a number of potentially negative impacts, including the high financial cost, possible removal of habitats for fish and other animals, a drop in fish stocks from the removal of seagrass and other habitats and the disturbance of contaminated sediments.
Any dredging will have to "minimise/avoid negative environmental impacts," the report says.
Once the plan is adopted, and certified by the NSW Government, the councils will revisit their agreement on the management of the lake to deliver the plan.