Lakes Entrance is home to the largest commercial fishing fleet in Victoria and is increasingly used by local and visiting recreational vessels. Dredging at the entrance to the Gippsland Lakes has occurred for over 120 years and has been essential for maintaining access between the Gippsland Lakes and Bass Strait since the permanent entrance was constructed in 1889. Ensuring a safe port access is critical for the Lakes Entrance economy and local tourism.
Maintenance dredging is an ongoing activity. Dredging only involves relocating clean oceanic sand, that has moved along the Ninety Mile Beach and accumulated in and around the entrance and on the bar. Gippsland Ports owns a Cutter Suction Dredge, the Kalimna, which dredges inside the entrance on an ongoing basis and since September 2017 Gippsland Ports has owned and operated the TSHD Tommy Norton to maintain the ocean access into Bass Strait.
The Environmental Management Plan sets out strict rules to ensure the environment is protected. These rules set out when, where and how dredging is to occur. The Plan also consolidates obligations established under Victorian and Commonwealth approvals.
Due to the nature of the bar, the dredging work required, and to ensure the safety of all mariners, mariners are advised to navigate with extreme caution and to maintain a safe distance from any dredging vessels at all times. A Notice to Mariners is issued and published on this website for each dredging program.
TSHD maintenance dredging program
The Tommy Norton TSHD annually relocates approximately 200,000 – 300,000m3 of clean oceanic sand predominantly from the Lakes Entrance Bar and also conducts minor maintenance dredging of the inner channels when required.
The TSHD is available to work year round, however only dredges when maintenance trigger levels have been reached and/or when local weather and tidal conditions allow. A TSHD activity report is regularly updated to report on the planned and actual works of the dredging program at Lakes Entrance.
Regular surveys of the Bar and the inner channels are available on the Bathymetric Surveys section of this website once they have been completed.
10-year Sea Dumping Permit
The Department of Environment issued Gippsland Ports a 10-year sea dumping permit to continue TSHD maintenance dredging of the Bar and inner channels. This permit covers the period 2013 through to 2023.
A requirement of the permit is that Gippsland Ports must have a Long Term Monitoring and Management Plan in place for maintenance dredging with ocean disposal.
The following documents provide some further information on dredging in the Port of Gippsland Lakes.