Busy long-weekend for Lake Macquarie Marine Rescue as 28 boats stuck in Swansea Channel

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Channel strife for 28 boats at Swansea during Easter long-weekend Dredging in the Swansea Channel in 2012. Picture: Dean Osland
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Lake Macquarie Marine Rescue was called to assist 28 boats that got stuck in the Swansea Channel during the East period.

TweetFacebookThere has been a renewed call for year-round dredging of the Swansea Channel after more than two dozen boatsgot stuck in shallow water duringthe Easter long-weekend.

Lake Macquarie Marine Rescue wascalled to tow 28 vessels–mostlyyachts–to safety between Thursday and Tuesday morning, after they ran into trouble because of silt build-up in the channel.

Unit commander Chris Parkinson told theNewcastle Heraldall calls for help came from boats in the same patch of water near the entrance to Swan Bay.

“It’s been occurring now for quite a while now,” he said.

“The channel up near Swan Bay has just become so shallow.Some have been sneaking through, others are touching the bottom and others are sort of stuck and we’ve got to get them off.”

Read more:Swansea Channel dredging a failure: Catley

Mr Parkinson said the number of Easter weekend call-outs was well up compared with an average weekend.

He said rapid depth changes in the channel had always been an issue because the sand moved so quickly, but it had become more of a problem in recent months.

The busy long-weekend for Marine Rescueprompted Swansea MP Yasmin Catley to call on the state government to fund year-round dredging of the channel.

Read more:Permanent fix needed for Swansea Channel (Editorial)

She said the Swansea Channel was linkedtoLake Macquarie’s tourism economy and conditions that were treacherous for vessels were damaging for the region.

Ms Catley said the state of the channelmade Lake Macquarie“the laughing stock of every yacht club on the eastern seaboard”.

“Every time the government has attempted to do ad hoc maintenance on the channel,which has all been reactionary, a couple of months after that silting has reoccured,” she said.

“So clearly their approach is not working. It is failing the people who use the lake. In fact, it is an absolute embarrassment.”

While Mr Parkinson said he did not want to be seen as beingcritical of the government, he supported the prospect of year-round dredging.

“Let’s put it this way, if it’s dredged all year around it’s going to resolve the problem,” he said.

Lands and forestry minister Paul Toole said the government had spent $1.1 million removing 41,000 cubic metres of sediment in two dredging operations since 2015.He said the government would spend another $100,000 on dredging later this month.

“Boating safety is a priority and it is preferable for dredging works to happen outside the busy school holiday period,” Mr Toole said.

“Weather permitting, dredging should be completed by the end of May.Monitoring of the channel will continue through regular bed level surveys.”

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