Sand at Farquhar Inlet near Old Bar shifts daily and the quantity and its location at the mouth of the Manning River is a hot topic of conversation in coastal communities from Wallabi Point to Crowdy Head.
Calls to dredge and appeals to shift sand from Farquhar to Old Bar Beach tend to dominate discussions. Listening to it all and working to manage the coastal area is Andrew Staniland, MidCoast Council’s project manager, planning and natural systems.
Watch Andrew explain the natural processes in play and what MidCoast Council is doing to manage it in the eight-minute video interview with journalist, Ainslee Dennis. It’s educational, engaging and essential viewing for people seeking to understand what is happening to our coastal area.
Following is a Q&A with Andrew that addresses some of the issues dealt with in the video:
Why is there a build-up of sand at Farquhar?
Sand movements are caused by a combination of coastal processes like tidal flow and wave action, with sand in this area naturally moving north from Wallabi Point. The mouth of the inlet acts like a vacuum, particularly in dry weather when the river is not actively flowing out to sea. In nature, the build-up would be flushed out with the next significant rain event.
Can council move the excess sand back onto Old Bar beach?
This idea has previously been considered as valid in addressing the erosion at Old Bar, but to ensure it aligns with today’s requirements, cost and environmental considerations will be reviewed. The issue is we can’t stop the natural processes from shifting the sand north and back to Farquhar again so while it will provide a temporary buffer for Old Bar, the complex nature of this area of coastline means we also need to consider the effect on Manning Point.
Is dredging being considered to reopen the entrance?
Without an active outflow from the river, we’d have to sit a dredge there permanently to keep the entrance open. It’s not effective in fighting the coastal processes at play, but is likely to play a part in re-opening once the river flow becomes sufficient. We maintain a flood notch at Farquhar, which means we can mechanically assist the flood waters escape to the ocean if and when necessary. We can also activate the opening if water quality becomes an issue. Without tidal flow at the moment, any rain we receive is contributing fresh water to the current salt water system, which can impact on conditions for local oyster farmers. Routine water quality monitoring will highlight if or when this is required.
What about maintaining boat access to Farquhar campground now that the 4WD access at Manning Point is closed?
Navigational dredging is something we undertake from time to time, and this applies to the Farquhar area. Again, we’re monitoring the channels constantly and will dredge Scotts Creek to the south channel and from Scotts Creek to the Farquhar camp ground when it becomes necessary.
Is there an upside?
We’ve seen an influx of wildlife coming into the area – migratory birds, birds of prey, and dolphins – enjoying the sanctuary and food offered through the changed coastline. Besides that, sand is now moving further north, making its way up to Manning Point beach. Only time will tell if this has an impact there, but it may provide some naturally positive relief in another challenging coastal area.