Moreton Island, Queensland

Last Thursday, Queensland, Australia, suffered one of its worst environmental disasters.

A cargo ship leaked tons of fuel into the ocean after cyclonic seas caused containers of ammonium nitrate to break loose and rip giant holes in the hull of the ship.

Why the ship was out in these rough sea conditions will be the subject of a full investigation.

To date, the total amount of oil spilled has not been determined, but a spokesman for the company Swire Shipping, Ltd.

which owns the vessel in question, says that it's believed to be significantly more than the 11,000 gallons originally estimated.

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Palm Beach reef

Administrative Law Judge Robert E. Meale ruled late yesterday that the Town of Palm Beach be denied a Joint Coastal Permit to nourish Reach 8.

One year ago in March 2008, the Surfrider Foundation, Snook Foundation, and three individuals filed suit against the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for approving a Joint Coastal Permit for the Town of Palm Beach to dredge-and-fill Reach 8.

The Town of Palm Beach intervened on behalf of the DEP, and the City of Lake Worth and Eastern Surfing Association intervened in opposition of the project. The trial lasted three weeks, ending in October of last year.

Reach 8 is one of eleven reaches of beach within the County of Palm Beach. The Town of Palm Beach nourished Reach 7 two years ago costing taxpayers tens of millions of dollars. Reach 7 caused substantial environmental harm to the local coastal resources and has already significantly eroded away.

The Town of Palm Beach was proposing more of the same in their attempt to dredge-and- fill Reach 8. Reach 8 extends 1.8 miles and includes beaches within the Town of Palm Beach and the City of Lake Worth.

The Town of Palm Beach proposed dredging offshore and filling in 700,000 cubic yards of fill material on Reach 8 directly burying seven acres of nearshore hardbottom reef.

The City of Lake Worth maintains a public park within Reach 8 and opted out of the Joint Coastal Permit due to the projects’ potential to harm their environmental resources and local economy dependent on them.

“This is a tremendous win for Florida’s Beaches,” said Chapter Chair Greg Lyon. “To our knowledge, this is the first time that any court in the US has flatly rejected the permitting of an approved dredge-and-fill project due primarily to the potential negative environmental impacts.”

The five petitioners proved the dredge-and-fill project would destroy the beach and coastal environment by directly burying reefs, killing marine life, including endangered seaturtles, and overall destabilizing fishing, diving, surfing and other valuable recreational uses of the area.

“The Judge clearly grasped the significance of the geological and biological coastal systems in this area and their rarity. His ruling focused extensively on the overwhelming data from numerous experts that supported the denial of this permit,” said attorney Jane West, whose firm Collins & West, P.A. represented the five petitioners.

Rob Young, Director of the Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines at Western Carolina University and an expert witness in the case expressed admiration for the judge’s ruling. "Judge Meale took a very hard look at the numerical computer model used to predict where the nourishment sand would go, and he strongly criticized its use," Young said.

"This same model, GENESIS, is used all over the country for the design of beach nourishment projects. The Judge’s ruling is a serious indictment of that practice."

“We look forward to working with our experts and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to re-examine its policies on beach management and realize these dredge and fill projects can be detrimental to the coastal environment they are alleged to be protecting,” said Ericka Davanzo, Surfrider's Regional Manager in Florida.

Judge Meale’s ruling is an order of recommendation to Secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Michael Sole, who will now have 45 days to issue the final order.

Cleaner beaches in Bali

The future of Bali’s beaches are looking brighter and brighter, with the arrival and testing of some new beach cleaning equipment that has been provided by Coca-Cola Bottling Indonesia and Quiksilver Indonesia.

There will be an official hand-over event this Saturday the 21st of February starting at 7:30 am in front of the SATGAS office at Kuta Beach, together with beach cleaning and other activities.

Housed at Kuta Beach and operated under the authority of Bendesa Adat Kuta, the new Massey Ferguson tractor will soon be prowling Kuta’s beaches from Tuban up to Seminyak, its special beach cleaning unit picking things like cigarette butts, bottle caps, bits of plastic and other trash from the sand and then dumping it all into the trucks that will be taken to the trash dump.

The waste collection process will be done by the GUS environmental organization.

Originally planned to be launched at the beginning of the rainy season, the testing process has exposed two hurdles that need to be overcome to achieve an optimally effective process; 1) The heavy rain and wet sand impact the effectiveness of the unit, and 2) the unit was not designed to have to pick up the huge amount of large waste items that are washed up on the beach during rainy season.

The team has studied the root cause and will further improve the process through a two-part process. First the creation and use of a primary waste collecting “Beach Rack” for these large items, followed by the use of the existing sand filtering unit for the smaller items.

When the rainy season ends and the dry season begins, only the sand-filtering unit will needed as there are far fewer of the larger waste items on the beach. The tractor will then be cruising up and down the beach, filtering the sand of all the debris that makes it dangerous, dirty, and unsightly.

The goal ultimate of the project goal is to return Kuta Beach and all Bali’s beaches back to the postcard perfect white-sand glory that is displayed on websites and brochures all over the world, with tractors like this working not only at Kuta Beach but also at Sanur, Nusa Dua, and Jimbaran, and wherever else they are needed.

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