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Debris in swollen Hawkesbury River causing problems for fishers and boaties

By Sofie Wainwright and Scott Levi, Tuesday April 13, 2021 - 01:28 EST
ABC image
A large tank floating on the Hawkesbury River following the March floods. - ABC

Boaties and fishers are continuing to dodge debris submerged in the Hawkesbury River following last month's floods.


The maximum speed on most of the river was reduced to 15 knots as authorities worked to remove larger objects, including furniture, parts of caravans and chemical drums.


That restriction will be lifted on Wednesday, but Transport for New South Wales Maritime Services is urging boaties to continue navigating with caution.


Jason Davidson, a commercial fisher near Spencer on the Central Coast, said he and his father resumed trawling for prawns about a week ago and that heavy items have been tearing their nets.


"The biggest worry for the trawling is the amount of random objects that have been washed away and drifted down the river and then sunk," Mr Davidson said.


"If they get tangled in our nets that's a big problem.


"My Dad got half a fibreglass boat ? so that destroyed his net and took him out of work for a bit.


"I caught a plastic bulk container with a metal cage around it, and also aluminum sheeting and a garbage bin."


Mr Davidson said the debris that fit on his boat was taken to the tip.


"You're wasting your time while you're trawling ? the time it takes to untangle it," he said.


"It takes longer to sew the holes [in the nets]."


'Caravans, fridges, bikes'


Transport for New South Wales Maritime senior boating safety officer for the Hawkesbury Broken Bay region, Darryl Lennox, said the debris was "dangerous and excessive".


"A lot of this debris is floating just under the surface," Mr Lennox said.


"There's caravans, there's fridges, there's lots of bits of firewood, there's bikes.


"Everything you can possibly think of is basically floating down the system.


"You'll see a couple of branches just under the water but there's a whole tree floating semi-submerged in the system.


"If you do hit one of these semi-submerged items, you're going to cause a fair bit of damage to your vessel.


"Your vessel will stop very quickly, so you can cause damage to the persons within the boat.


"You'll throw them out of the seat, you'll throw them against the windscreen. 


"We don't want people to have any injuries as a result of any of this debris."


Mr Lennox said his agency was one of many helping to assess and clear the debris.


Adam Gilligan, the regional director of regulatory operations at the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA), said he was concerned by potential contamination in waterways.


"We've seen a number of things along the Hawkesbury and also along the coast ? like drums of chemicals that we've worked with Fire and Rescue to make sure they're secured and removed as quickly as possible," he said.


The EPA said an estimated 145 tonnes of flood debris has been removed from the Hawkesbury shorelines.







- ABC

© ABC 2021

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