"Let's build a bridge and get over it": unanimous support for Kenwood Drive bridge replacement

Drained: Many locals are critical of the bridge impeding the natural flow of the lake. This was taken in 2019 when the lake was near empty. Photo: Lisa Willows.
Drained: Many locals are critical of the bridge impeding the natural flow of the lake. This was taken in 2019 when the lake was near empty. Photo: Lisa Willows.

THE wheels are now in motion to replace the Kenwood Drive bridge at Lake Cathie.

All councillors voted in support of a motion put forward by mayor Peta Pinson at the June 3 meeting, for the general manager give consideration to the development of concept designs for a new bridge as part of council's 2020-2021 operational plan.

The configuration of the Kenwood Drive bridge, which was constructed in the 1970s, significantly influences the flow of water from the back channel and is considered to be among one of the priority concerns in the future management of the waterway at Lake Cathie.

The general manager will table a report in July detailing any impacts undertaking the concept designs for the Kenwood Drive Bridge will have on existing priorities listed in the draft 2020-2021 Operational Plan, as well as identifying a potential funding source for the concept design work to be undertaken during 2020-2021.

Council will also engage Member for Port Macquarie Leslie Williams and Member for Lyne Dr David Gillespie on the issue.

Cr Pinson, who has been a strong advocate for the lake, said while the bridge has served the community well it must be lengthened and widened to ensure the long-term future health of the waterway.

Council took action and opened the lake on May 22 as a flood mitigation measure. The scraping of the sand berm was considered the most environmentally sensitive option and supported by state agencies, as opposed to a full excavation of a channel.

Councillors met with advocacy group Revive Lake Cathie in August 2019 when the lake, in the grip of drought, was empty.

"Those councillors who went to the site on the 14th of August 2019, we actually walked over a barren lake," Cr Pinson said.

"It was filled with sediment and we were able to actually see for the first time in people's memory within council ... what was under the water fully exposed.

"It is such a narrow bottleneck of an opening. I really believe in 2020 Port Macquare-Hastings Council and the elected body should be championing this project for a number of reasons, because what we've learnt in the last 18 months is we've had robust debates about responsibility and ownership of various parts of he lake, what council's responsibility is, how council can deliver to the community what it is they are wanting."

Cr Pinson acknowledged there is much work to be done before a bridge can be constructed but said now is the time to commit to it, seek out funding and work with the relevant state agencies who manage the waterway.

"Let's build a bridge so we can all get over it," she said.

Cr Turner agreed Kenwood Drive bridge is a high priority project

"We all love and enjoy Lake Cathie and whatever we can do to make it better is good," Cr Turner said.

"There is overwhelming evidence that fixing Kenwood Drive bridge is something we should do. I think we do need to make sure people's expectations are realistic with this.

"Ultimately we won't be able to do a thing in that lake without the approval of certain state government agencies."

Cr Lisa Intemann, in support, said various environmental studies including an EIS must go "hand in glove" with the Coastal Management Program's development.

"I feel I cannot let this pass without also mentioning that for the long term health of the lake this cannot be the only thing that's done and we cannot lose sight of the even more difficult task of getting agreement on the potential closure of Lake Innes."

Cr Alley said the bridge replacement is an important part of the whole solution.

On the ground: Environmental scientist Colin Creigton inspects a dried up section of Lake Cathie.

On the ground: Environmental scientist Colin Creigton inspects a dried up section of Lake Cathie.

Both community groups, Revive Lake Cathie and Saving lake Cathie, have strongly lobbied council to widen Kenwood Drive bridge to improve tidal flows in the lake and believe the action is central to ensuring better long-term water quality.

It has been suggested the bridge, which spans a 10 metre opening over the waterway, needs to be widened by up to 36 metres.

Associate Professor at James Cook University, Colin Creighton, specialises in coastal systems. He inspected the condition of the lake in August 2019.

At that time, Prof Creighton's recommendations included replacing Kenwood Drive bridge within an entire causeway to allow good tidal flow and removing as much sand out of the two islands forming either side of Kenwood Drive Bridge recreating deep water holes and channels.

"Saving Lake Cathie supports the council decision. Council has acknowledged the priority for this replacement and its feed into the Coastal Management Plan," spokesperson Stewart Cooper said.

"This has been advocated over several environmental studies going back 40 years.

"It has been a long fight but we feel that this is a positive first step."

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