Dredging is digging, gathering or pulling out material to deepen waterways, create harbours, channels, locks, docks and berths, desilt lakes and keep river entrances and approaches to boat ramps clear.

The material removed during dredging can vary greatly and can be any combination of rocks, clays, silts or sands.

Why dredge?

Dredging takes place for a number of reasons, including:

  • to maintain the depth in existing ports, harbours and channels
  • to create new or deeper access or berths for vessels
  • to provide material for specific purposes
  • to bypass an artificial structure that obstructs sediment movement along the coast.

Impacts of dredging

Dredging has the potential to change the environment by:

  • causing turbidity in water and increasing sedimentation on the bottom
  • changing the chemical composition of the water and negatively affecting water quality
  • releasing nutrient elements that may trigger algal blooms
  • transporting species from one port to another.

Best Practice Environmental Management Guidelines for dredging

The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has produced Best Practice Environmental Management Guidelines for Dredging (PDF, 773.3 KB). The guidelines address the environmental issues and controls involved in dredging.

Gaining approval to dredge

Step 1: Coastal Management Act consent

If you plan to dredge you must gain consent from the Minister or delegate under the Coastal Management Act to use and develop coastal Crown land. Coastal Crown land is the sea bed, and banks and any Crown land within 200m of the tidal influence of rivers and streams entering a sea, bay or inlet in Victorian waters.

You will need to fill out a dredging application form (PDF, 29.0 KB), ensure your application meets all Best Practice Environmental Management Guidelines for Dredging requirements and submit your application to our regional office.

Dredging application form (PDF, 29.0 KB)

Step 2: Application referred to EPA

Applications to dredge may be referred to EPA for expert advice on compliance with the Best Practice Environmental Management Guidelines for Dredging. This referral is as a request for further information in accordance with section (39) (2) of the Coastal Management Act.

Other approvals

Where new dredging works occur in an area subject to a planning scheme, you will also need a planning permit.

Proposals that are likely to involve large environmental, social or economic impacts may also be subject to an Environment Effects Statement under the Environmental Effects Act 1978.

On the open coast, the dumping of dredged material, other than beach renourishment and sand bypassing operations, must satisfy the requirements of the Commonwealth Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Act 1981, administered by the Environment Protection Group of Environment Australia.

In areas of national significance, other approvals under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 may apply.

Page last updated: 28/07/21