Ballina bar deeper, safer than it's been in years
THE notorious Ballina bar is now deeper and safer than it has been in years, according to a local environmental engineer and keen sailor.
James Foster is also a member of the Port of Ballina Taskforce.
Members of the taskforce include representatives from Ballina Shire Council, the Ballina Fishermen's Co-op, the Ballina Chamber of Commerce and people involved in the local marine industry.
At a recent meeting, members were shown the latest hydrographic surveys of the Richmond River entrance, which now has a minimum depth of about five metres.
In 2011, when the bar was at its worst, it was just 2.7m at low tide.
"The bar is a dynamic system," Mr Foster said.
Drought, floods, rain, currents and swell are just some of the factors that can influence the bar.
Mr Foster acknowledged that, over the past couple of years, the bar has been as bad as it can get.
"Boats, particularly the trawlers, have been scraping the bottom. Boats would come into Ballina and then get stuck here for six to eight weeks," he said. "But in the past few months the bar has naturally deepened."
While the Richmond River bar has a bad reputation, Mr Foster said the issues were the same at every river entrance.
"Bars will always be dangerous places, and with the wrong tide and weather, they can also be deadly," he said.
Even with the increase in overall depth, Mr Foster said prudent skippers still avoided the bar on the run out and low tide.
"As mariners, we need to exercise caution at all times," he said.
"You see the professional fishermen do that - if the tides or the conditions aren't right when the trawlers want to go out at night, they will go in the middle of the day and anchor just off the coast until they're ready to start fishing.
"It's important to stay informed and be careful."