More funding for St Lucia project

Shaking hands at the contract signing are (from left): Mike Udal, project engineer from MBB Consulting Engineers, Mario Beccaro of Scribante Africa Mining, Andrew Zaloumis the chief executive of iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority, Richard Tucker of T&T Marine and Terri Castis the business director of iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority.

FROM the vantage point of the St Lucia Ski Boat Club and Estuary Boardwalk, the view across to Maphelane has recently changed dramatically.

The dredge spoil and other deposited material is being steadily removed and, as the historic restoration of the Lake St Lucia system continues, it is starting to make a visible difference to the landscape and to nature.

Good news from the iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority is that the World Bank has invested additional funds to restore Africa’s largest estuarine lake.

Last week, the authority signed two new contracts, valued at R23.41 million each, with T&T Marine (Pty) Ltd and Scribante Africa Mining (Pty) Ltd. Both contracts will run until the end of June and are for the loading, hauling, tipping and disposal of material obstructing the natural flow of the uMfolozi River in the mouth area of the Lake St Lucia Estuary.

“This brings the total value of iSimangaliso’s Lake St Lucia restoration project to R62 million,” said iSimangaliso Business Director Terri Castis.

These contracts are in addition to those signed with Cyclone Engineering in January last year for the removal of 100 000 cubic metres of dredge spoil. The work initially progressed more slowly than anticipated, due to technical problems associated with the drought and the lowest rainfall levels in 65 years.

The original method of dredge removal using slurry pumps was subsequently augmented by a conveyor belt and truck system to accelerate the rate of production.

It is yielding good results. In addition to the slurry pumping, the extra plant, which included six automated dump trucks with a 13-ton load capacity, two bulldozers and three excavators, began operations on the rehabilitation site in November last year.

Cyclone Engineering has received a contract extension for R5 million, in addition to its current contract of R10 million. This will take its work, completing Phase A of the project, to the end of January. This means there are presently three contractors on site. Two will remain next month to complete Phase B.

“It is South Africa’s largest and ecologically most significant wetland rehabilitation project. The appointment of two new contractors will expedite this work, improve efficiency and optimise the use of the available funds,” said iSimangaliso’s chief executive, Andrew Zaloumis.

 At work on South Africa’s largest and ecologically most significant wetland rehabilitation project.

At work on South Africa’s largest and ecologically most significant wetland rehabilitation project.

 

Thanks to the new contracts a further 1.1 million cubic metres of material obstructing the flow of the uMfolozi would be removed, he added.

Regular visitors to the wetland park who watched with horror as water levels dropped to frightening levels during the recent drought, will be pleased to know that levels in the lake system have increased dramatically on the back of the recent rains. The rain resulted in strong flows from the uMfolozi River into Lake St Lucia.

Ninety percent of the Lake’s surface area is now covered and the lake, once compartmentalised, is once again a single body of water. By November last year, salinity throughout the system had dropped to a satisfactory level of below five parts per 1 000.

By January 8 rainfall figures for the new year were already impressive. Kosi Bay had received 69mm, uMkhuze, 27mm, False Bay, 51mm, Charters Creek , 57.5mm, St Lucia Estuary, 90mm and Mission Rocks had received 72mm.

A large body of research work now underpins iSimangaliso’s restoration project, funded by the World Bank’s Global Environment Facility.

For decades it was believed that silt was the biggest risk to the system.

Silt remains an issue but evidence is emerging that the critical issue is fresh water. It is the uMfolozi River’s ability to act as the powerhouse that drives the natural process of the mouth.

Drought is still affecting the system and the estuary mouth is still closed to the sea. However, once we enter a period with more rainfall, floods and tidal flushing associated with an open mouth will result in a net loss of silt from the estuary.

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  AUTHOR
Judi Davis
Reporter

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