Homes in firing line if Pumicestone Passage breaks

A FORCE of nature near impossible to stop could put properties along the Pumicestone Passage in the firing line.

There are fears a tidal breakthrough on the northern tip of Bribie Island - an event tipped in 2009 to occur within the next 20-30 years - could leave Golden Beach or Pelican Waters homes exposed to future storm surges and tidal events.

Ray White has lived on the Esplanade at Golden Beach for the past 10 years and is concerned Bribie Island may not withstand what's predicted to be a hectic cyclone season.

He believes a serious weak spot is being created on Bribie Island, almost directly east across the Passage from the Beattie St/Esplanade intersection near Gemini Resort, while other spots are becoming more prominent as potential tidal breakthrough zones.

FROM ABOVE: Google Earth's current Pumicestone Passage image.
FROM ABOVE: Google Earth's current Pumicestone Passage image. Google Earth

Mr White said a severe enough storm could see the ocean carve into the Passage, cutting Bribie Island and, if the sand banks in the Passage were unable to prevent it, drive a storm surge sending waves into Golden Beach properties.

He said there were also mass sand deposits starting to build up near the northern mouth which could 'silt up', creating a stagnant, tidal mangrove marsh between Bulcock Beach and Golden Beach.

He urged action be taken and said other locals he'd spoken with had discussed the possibility of a seawall being built off the southern end of Bribie Island to prevent further sand build-up in the Passage while pushing sand onto the eastern side of the island, helping create a greater buffer against erosion.

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In 2009 the Pumicestone Passage Advisory Task Force made up of the Sunshine Coast Council, State Government and community representatives found the northern 5km of Bribie Island had narrowed by up to 100m since 1948.

That report found 80% of the Passage was less than two metres deep and identified four areas of Bribie Island at risk of a tidal breakthrough, from the spot identified by Mr White to south of Bells Creek.

Areas Two and Three, opposite Lamerough Canal and Bells Creek are where Take Action for Pumicestone Passage president Ken Mewburn predicted most damage would be caused.

He said the bar had changed position in the past and it would only take "a good storm season" to see the "temporary" top end of Bribie Island broken through.

Mr Mewburn said it was possible the ocean could break through in a wide range of places and the whole tip could be lost in one hit if the storm was significant enough.

He expected there would be some impact on Golden Beach if the break happened at the northern end, but said a tidal breakthrough south of Lamerough Canal creating exaggerated tidal movements could be far more serious for Pelican Waters residents while a breakthrough opposite Bells Creek would be the worst result.

"It's a bit of a guessing game," he said.

"There's four or five places it could (break through). It's a throw of a dice."

He said there was not much that could be done, as the northern tip of Bribie Island only had a relatively short lifespan, as nature took its course and it would be extremely difficult, and costly, to create any sort of barrier on the eastern side of Bribie Island.

AT RISK: The areas identified in 2009 as at-risk of tidal breakthrough.
AT RISK: The areas identified in 2009 as at-risk of tidal breakthrough. Pumicestone Passage Advisory Tas

He said development, infrastructure and human activity had sped up sand deposits increasing in the Passage.

Sunshine Coast mayor Mark Jamieson said Bribie Island had been subject to natural coastal processes for "thousands of years" and those forces would continue to shape its future.

He said coastal engineers had identified potential risks associated with a breakthrough and an action plan had been designed and implemented to mitigate and manage those risks.

Cr Jamieson said the Bribie Island Action Plan included a range of proactive measures which had been completed, including installation of a tide gauge, seeking of necessary pre-approvals for coastal works including sand renourishment/revetment wall construction and regular monitoring of potential breakthrough sites.

Sunshine Coast Environment Council spokeswoman Narelle McCarthy said it was essentially a natural process, but coastal developments would be more vulnerable should the ocean eventually break through.

Some residents are concerned about the potention of the ocean to break through Bribie Island affecting homes along Golden Beach.Ray White says action needs to be taken before the ocean breaks through.
Some residents are concerned about the potention of the ocean to break through Bribie Island affecting homes along Golden Beach.Ray White says action needs to be taken before the ocean breaks through. Warren Lynam

She praised revegetation attempts on the northern end of the island which had helped stabilise some of the area but all indications were that it would prove difficult to prevent the breakthrough and a silting up of the current mouth of the Passage.

"Some vegetation is better than none," Ms McCarthy said.

Caloundra Cruise owner Ken McBryde heard the dunes had been stabilised more, but that storms and weather events could change the area pretty quickly.

He said the bar seemed "pretty stable" at the moment and there was plenty of sand in the Passage with some channel movement, but nothing out of the ordinary.

He said it was nature taking its course and didn't think Golden Beach residents should be overly concerned, using Bulcock Beach as an example.

"There isn't significant wave action at Bulcock Beach now with the opening there where it is now," Mr McBryde said.

Some residents are concerned about the potential of the ocean to break through Bribie Island affecting homes along Golden Beach.Ken McBride from Caloundra Cruises says it's nature taking course.
Caloundra Cruise owner Ken McBryde knows the Passage better than most. Warren Lynam