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Dredging at Cirkewwa
Dredging at Cirkewwa
Dredging at Cirkewwa

Client: Transport Malta

Start / Finish Dates:  April 2012 – August 2012

A Project Description Statement was prepared for the proposed development, involving dredging works, to allow the use of Berth 3 at the Cirkewwa Terminal. The dredging works in Berth 3 aim to achieve a water depth of 6m to allow the berthing of Gozo Channel ferries.

MEPA requested an update to the original EIA, which was carried out in 1998 for the development of the Cirkewwa Terminal and dredging works. Since the Scheme falls within a Special Area of Conservation (SAC), an Appropriate Assessment was also required. This development is the final stage of the construction and expansion of the Cirkewwa Harbour; the project is of crucial importance in enhancing the accessibility between Malta and Gozo. The ferry service remains the only public means of transportation between the two islands and the only means of vehicular crossing.

The total approximate volume of dredged material is expected to be 8,000m3. Approximately two-thirds of this material will consist of loose marine sand with the rest comprising Quaternary deposits. It is expected that this volume will increase by 20% – 30% following dredging due to the bulking of the dredged material.

The EIA Update did not identify any major impacts arising from the Scheme. Minor impacts identified relate to the impacts on the benthic environment and includes some direct loss of Posidonia meadows and associated Cymodocea nodosa as a result of the dredging works. In addition to the direct loss, a halo effect, whereby damage is accrued to the seagrasses surrounding the dredged area to different degrees with the most damage/disturbance felt
closest to the dredged area, is also likely to occur.

Both dredging and the operational phase will result in an increase in turbidity within the Area of Influence. Increased turbidity reduces the amount of light available for photosynthesis, and may therefore affect the health of the seagrasses. The feeding efficiency of filter feeders (e.g. Pinna nobilis, serpulids, sabellids, etc) may also be impacted as a result of increased particulates clogging feeding siphons and cilia. The EIA Update recommended adequate monitoring during the works and operations so that appropriate mitigating measures can be adopted, if necessary. The potential increased stresses to Posidonia meadows in the Area of Influence may render the habitat more vulnerable to reinstatement of the invasive alien alga Caulerpa racemosa and the alien seagrass Halophila stipulacea. Depending on the spread of these species, this could result in a minor to major impact on the Area of Influence.

The dredging works were approved in December 2012. Dredging works commenced in January 2013.

Keywords: Inter-island ferry terminal, Project Description Statement, Environmental Impact Assessment, Appropriate Assessment