The Malta Independent 22 March 2019, Friday

PA board indicates approval of dredging works in Natura 2000 site

Kevin Schembri Orland Thursday, 21 February 2019, 11:46 Last update: about 28 days ago

The PA Board intends to allow dredging works in a Natura 2000 site in Marsascala, while highlighting the need to protect certain fish species found in the area.

An application proposed dredging works at Tal-Maghluq, Triq Tal-Gardiel, Marsascala, Malta.

The proposal consists of studies, cleaning the ponds, the addition of circulation pipes and the extension of existing pipes, the construction of a sump and the Installation of pumps.

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The site has an approximate area of 5,906m². The site is bound on two adjacent sides by roads, namely to the north there is Triq Sant Antnin, and to the east there is Triq Tal-Gardiel leading to the Marsascala bay. The area surrounding the site is characterised by a range of a mixture of residences, commercial and recreational establishments. To the south and west, the site is surrounded by agricultural land. Il-Maghluq is one of the only two extant saline marshlands found in the South of Malta. It is situated at the inner most end of the bay at Marsascala. It is also located at the mouth of a valley (Wied ta' Sant' Antnin). Il-Maghluq consists of the salt marsh proper (at the landward end) and an elongated lagoon (fish ponds) both of which are ecologically important. The marshland and the sides of the lagoon support most of the 'Linonium virgatum' and 'Juncus maritimus' as well as the golden samphire 'Inula chrithmoide’.

“It is designated as a Natura 2000 site and is the habitat of a number of protected species such as the killifish. The ‘Tal- Maghluq’ Area is characterised by brackish water that forms in the two ponds. This water is the combination of fresh water coming from inland and sea water from the bay. The ponds are characterised by a number of salt tolerant and wetland plants which thrive in this area,” the case officer’s report read.

“In the past this area consisted of two interconnected fish ponds. There was a direct open link between the two zones, which link was cut off when the road was constructed. During the road construction, a number of existing pipes were placed to allow water circulation from the bay into the ponds and vice versa. It is thought that these pipes are currently partially blocked by silt, debris and other material that accumulated in them throughout the years.”

The case officer highlighted that the reason for objecting to the application was as certain studies with required by the Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) and the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage (SCH) had not yet concluded.

A member of the Killfish conservation project highlighted how two local species of such fish are found on the site, and that the ones found on this particular site have seen their numbers diminishing over recent years.

He also agreed that such a project is needed. Rubbish being thrown in the area was also highlighted as a concern. He noted that dredging works should not be done in winter, as the fish seem to stick within the algae during this period, and thus it would be hard to catch them to move them while the works commence.

ERA Chairman Victor Asciak said that the project is important. “I hope and ask that you consider an approval of the project, with the understanding that the work will be done well, and that the approval of the ERA and SCH studies be included as reserved matters.” He also stressed the importance of conserving the killfish.

The board indicated their intention to overturn the case officer’s refusal recommendation, thus being in favour of the project. A final vote will be taken at a later date.

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