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  • Writer's pictureThe Beagle

It's hard to be a visionary when you are told to wear blinkers

The Beagle Editor, When the new bridge at Batemans Bay was proposed, the design lowered the bridge height from 23m to only 12 meters above the water. This was justified on incorrect vessel data and in the full knowledge that 90% of the yachts in the marina would not be able to traverse the Clyde River up to Nelligin. Furthermore, to comply with the disability standards, the 5 percent slope would have extended the on-ramps on the southern side almost to the then bowling club and the traffic flows in the CBD would have been further congested.

In an act to compensate the boating community it was agreed that there would be some offset: keep at least one boat ramp with only one lane open and close the northern ramp for the duration of the build. The most significant offset was to replace the concrete T-wharf with a new floating wharf. This was written into the John Holland contract. While the majority of the boaters and fishers were not happy with this arrangement, we all understood that this was a large project and compromises would have to be made by all. The Eurobodalla Shire Council’s submission to RMS and adopted by Council on 12 December 2017, supported in the strongest terms the removal of the T-wharf and its replacement with floating pontoons to "improve boating access to the CBD" (p 5). It further recommended that the new pontoons be "at an early phase to increase the benefit to the community" (p 10). The submission states "it is highly desirable... to enhance accessible tourism experience" "It would accommodate improved mooring and access to the Batemans Bay CBD east of the bridge.” (p 13). The demolition of the T-wharf by Crown Lands was initiated late last year with a contract about to be signed, but due to unnamed sources raising an objection, the contract was put on hold. A delaying tactic was initiated to have an engineering study of the structure undertaken. As part of the Environmental Impact Statement of the Bridge ,Nov. 2017 at Appendix E, a comprehensive hydrology, wave and coastal study was included. This looked at a 1 in 100 year storm and normal conditions. The former produced waves of .9 m and the latter .22 m (less than a height of a bottle of wine). That put to rest any objection that the waves would wash away a floating pontoon. These figures have been accepted by the JH engineering team. A further wave study would be redundant and a waste of time and money. At the last Foreshore Advisory Committee (FAC), a design for the replacement concrete T-wharf was put forward for comment. It had many good features such as a floating pontoon, piles, and a moving connecting ramp. It was however too short to berth two average sized vessels and was fundamentally flawed in that it took no cognisance of the tidal stream and the way a vessel would have to be secured. This was a start and some agreed that experienced seamen should be involved in any future design. It should be noted that three of the 25 people at the FAC meeting had a boating license. The community members of the FAC have been asked by John Holland (JH) to survey their constituents to establish if they supported a floating pontoon and how the new structure would be used by the community and tourists. One could cynically ask why would the construction firm be asking these questions when it is part of their contract to deliver and has been supported by the Shire. It is a given or isn’t it? Any extension to the new floating pontoon from the current T-wharf, down stream to the Star Fish Deli and beyond, i.e into the CBD, would be outside JH ‘sarea of responsibility and not even paid for by this commercial firm, or the ratepayers, but by the Boating Now fund gathered from boating licenses.

So what would the benefit be to Batemans Bay community of a modern floating pontoon right in the CBD and along the foreshore of the great Clyde River. It would enhance the river/shore interface with a place for locals and tourist to walk right next to the water’s edge. Perhaps a stroll at sunset while the kids and others would be able to throw in a fishing line in the hope of taking a fish home for dinner. One could even sit on the pontoon, on a hot summer's day, and put one’s feet in the water to cool off - not stand on some structure meters away from the real water. Yes, relax and enjoy our perfect environment and clear waters. Cruising yachts denied access to Nelligen could tie up at the pontoon and visit the shops, restaurants and chandlers within our town. The fishers’ tinnies and vessels could come alongside and visit the toilet in dignity or take on more of the family for a great day in the Bay. The kayaks and paddle skis would safely secure their craft on the inside and stop for a coffee and a snack before venturing further afield. The local sea plane could start its scenic flights from here and oyster information cruises and river cruises would take on passengers right in the CBD. Additional parking has been included in the new bridge design layout. The cruise ship tenders could come alongside and the passengers could easily step ashore, including disabled passengers, at any state of the tide and in most wave conditions. Now think of the money spent in the town and impressions that would be sent to the rest of the world. The benefits are endless and would be a game changer for the now struggling town in enhancing its place at the mouth of a great bay. So lets get on with designing the floating pontoons (an estimate has been received to install the 225 meters of pontoons for only $1.2 mil) and put it front and centre to the success of the new bridge. It is time to take a bold step to include the river in our town as a real asset and not something that just flows out to sea. Harry Watson Smith Batemans Bay Boaters Association Inc

NOTE: Comments were TRIALED - in the end it failed as humans will be humans and it turned into a pile of merde; only contributed to by just a handful who did little to add to the conversation of the issue at hand. Anyone who would like to contribute an opinion are encouraged to send in a Letter to the Editor where it might be considered for publication

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