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Exmouth flooding washes tonnes of sediment into sea near Ningaloo Reef

By Ebonnie Spriggs and Gian De Poloni, Wednesday April 30, 2014 - 16:32 EST
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Recent flooding around Exmouth has caused discolouration in waters off Ningaloo Reef. - ABC

Recent flooding around Exmouth has caused discolouration in the pristine waters off Ningaloo Reef, sparking concerns about the impact on coral in the area.

Homes, businesses and camp grounds were damaged on the coastal town after more than 250 millilitres of rain fell over the weekend.

There are now concerns about the impact the flooding will have on Exmouth's major tourist drawcard - the heritage-listed Ningaloo Reef - after hundreds of thousands of tonnes of silt and sediment was washed into the sea.

The Department of Parks and Wildlife's Arvid Hogstram said any long-term impacts on the reef would be researched and monitored.

"There is a really red colour to the water out there," she said.

"Normally at this point we would be looking out over some of the most pristine turquoise waters in the world, the waters that Ningaloo is famous for.

"But now they are all mud-stained and dirty because all the creek lines have just deposited hundreds of thousands of tonnes of silt and sediment and just discoloured it all."

More flood-mitigation infrastructure needed, minister says

The WA Minister for Police and Tourism, Liza Harvey, arrived in Exmouth today to inspect the flood damage.

Ms Harvey said Exmouth's flood mitigation infrastructure could be improved.

"I'll be reporting back to the Premier on what I see here," she said.

"It's clear that we need to do a little bit more work with some of the flood mitigation around the edges of town.

"We haven't been set up to prepare ourselves as well as we potentially could have."

Meanwhile, flood damage is so bad at some campgrounds in the Cape Range National Park, they could be shut permanently.

The park today remained closed.

Exmouth Visitor Centre's Ben Naggs said some popular snorkel spots were also off-limits.

More heavy rainfall possible

The weather bureau is warning residents to be prepared with a possible low developing off the coast, which could see more heavy rain dumped this weekend.

Senior forecaster Matt Boterhoven said there could be more significant rainfalls.

"At this stage it's still a few days away so a little uncertain," he said.

"It'll start on Sunday but the heavier stuff will be during Monday. The timing could vary, it could push it all back to Monday or it could speed it up a little.

"If the current guidance holds to be true, we could see some significant rainfall figures there on Monday."

The Shire of Exmouth said it would apply for natural disaster assistance.

Yesterday, shire president Turk Shales said the rain had devastated parts of the cape, with caravans, trees and roads washed away in floodwaters.

"I've just got back from assessing the west side - that is just total devastation," he said.

"They've got a rain gauge around there that holds 200mm and they emptied it twice - they had over 400mm around there.

"But to actually see what I've seen today, how someone wasn't killed, I have no idea."

Four front-end loaders were on their way to the town to help with the clean up.

Mr Shales said they planned to restore some camping sites in the Cape Range National Park.

Minilya-Exmouth Road remains closed from the North West Coastal Highway intersection to Coral Bay Road.


- ABC

© ABC 2014

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