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Cowes boat ramp

Better boating facilities are on the way at Cowes, with $2m allocated through the 2022-23 Victorian Recreational Boating Action Plan for future upgrades.

The Cowes boat ramp is located at the end of Anderson Road within the coastal township of Cowes on Phillip Island. The beach ramp is a popular launching point for recreational fishers and boaters, particularly through the peak summer period.

The current facility comprises a shallow gradient boat ramp which enables restricted launching by typically smaller vessels, generally at higher tides. A jetty is located nearby with tiered platforms providing access for temporary on water berthing at a variety of tidal ranges.

The Cowes boat ramp operates within only a limited tidal range, during mostly favourable conditions. The ramp is regularly impacted by sand which moves along the shoreline throughout the year generally influenced by prevailing winds. The sand makes launching and retrieval difficult, particularly for 2WD vehicles and is an significant ongoing maintenance burden for the facility manager.

Concept Phase

In 2021 a concept plan was developed with input from recreational boaters and fishers, key management agencies, Bass Coast Shire Council, and the broader community. The concept involved raising the height of the ramp high above the beach, dredging at the toe of the ramp and adding groynes either side to trap sediment.

Since then, civil, and coastal engineers from BMT Australia have been engaged to progress detailed construction ready designs for the Cowes boat ramp upgrade. As part of their design process, the original concept has been carefully reviewed and some changes made.

Click here to view the updated concept.

The new design now raises the height of the ramp to just above the existing beach height which will reduce the impact of sand and require less maintenance to remain open and operational for boaters. The height of the ramp has been reduced as a large solid structure would trap sand on one side but also starve the beach of sand on the other side, resulting in significant erosion elsewhere along the beach. In addition the upgrades will also raise the height of the lower landings on the adjacent jetty and extend it out further to provide more on water berthing across a greater tidal range. The key features of the proposed upgrade are expected to improve the functionality of the facility making it easier to use for more boaters, more often.

Detailed Design Phase

The teams from Better Boating Victoria, Bass Coast Shire and BMT Australia will continue to progress designs and obtain the necessary permits and approvals to enable construction early in 2023, after the summer peak period.

Why is the Cowes boat ramp getting an upgrade?

The Cowes boat ramp is an important part of the boat ramp network on Phillip Island. Local boaters access the ramp year-round with summer seeing use increase significantly as the holiday population on Phillip Island grows.

The current ramp sits beneath the natural height of the beach and is regularly impacted by sand which accumulates over the ramp and requires regular clearing to remain operational. The lower landings on the jetty which sits adjacent to the ramp are also too low and largely unusable at higher tides when boaters use the ramp.

Who is the facility manager?

The Cowes boat ramp is managed by Bass Coast Shire Council, who will oversee the construction works with support from Better Boating Victoria.

What’s happened already?

In 2021 a concept plan was developed with input from recreational boaters and fishers, key management agencies, Bass Coast Shire Council, and the broader community. The concept involved raising the height of the ramp well above the beach, dredging at the toe of the ramp and adding groynes either side to trap sediment.

Since then, civil, and coastal engineers from BMT Australia have been engaged to progress detailed construction ready designs for the Cowes boat ramp upgrade. As part of their design process, the original concept has been carefully reviewed and some changes made.

What’s changed in the concept plan?

The changes include raising the height of the ramp to just above the existing beach height which will reduce the impact of sand which requires less maintenance to remain open for boaters. The ramp width will be retained.  The jetty will be extended and the height of the lower landing will be raised.

Why did it change?

The construction of a large solid ramp structure and groynes would trap sand on one side but also starve the beach of sand on the other side, resulting in significant erosion elsewhere along the beach. This would impact the use and amenity of the beach and threaten land-based assets along the shoreline.

In addition, the previous design relied on timber groynes and dredging to manage the accumulation of sand on the ramp. Advice from coastal engineers is that the volume of sand moving along the beach would make regular dredging unfeasible and ultimately lead to ongoing issues with sand accumulation again.

How will the updated design manage the accumulation of sand on the ramp?

The current ramp sits below the natural height of the beach. When the ramp is dug out and sand cleared away it creates a depression in the beach which constantly refills with sand after each tide cycle. The updated design raises the height of the ramp to the actual beach height which means it won’t need to be dug out anymore and instead will only periodically require some sand to be cleared off the ramp.

Will the updated design require regular sand clearing to remain operational like the current ramp?

The new ramp will still require periodic maintenance to manage sand build up.  However, as the new ramp will sit higher it will require significantly less maintenance.  The reduced sand build up means that boaters will no longer be reliant on contractors to regularly dig the ramp out for access.

Does the updated design include any changes to the jetty?

Yes. The project scope also includes raising the lower section of the existing jetty to make it useable across a greater tidal range, and extending it out further to accommodate more boats, more often.

Will the Cowes boat ramp be an all-tide facility?

No, the Cowes beach boat ramp will not be an all-tide facility. An all tide ramp is located nearby at the recently upgraded Rhyll facility, which is only 10mins away.

The seabed directly out for the ramp is very flat for ~100 metres, and all-tide access will be very difficult to achieve. Advice from the design engineers suggest that the ramp will be best suited to the top 60% of the tidal ranges. Some smaller boats and PWCs will still be able to use it at lower tides.

What sized boats can launch at the ramp?

Given the shallow grade of the ramp it is best suited to smaller, lighter boats. Larger boats can launch here during higher tides, but they are better suited to other ramps such as Newhaven, Corinella or the recently upgraded Rhyll facility which is only 10mins away.

Why is a marina not being constructed?

A marina is not feasible at this location due to the shallow seabed, coastal processes and significant sand movement along that section of coastline.

I’m not a boater so how does the ramp and jetty upgrades impact me?

Beach users can continue to enjoy the Anderson Rd beach as they do now. The ramp and jetty upgrades will lead to better boating opportunities but won’t impact on the ability to walk along the shoreline or take the family down for a day at the beach.

When do you expect construction to begin?

Construction is planned to commence after the peak summer holiday period in 2023. Works will likely occur between  May – August 2023, pending final approvals and contractor availability.

Will the ramp be closed during construction?

The ramp will likely need to be closed during construction for the safety of boaters and the construction crew. Details in relation to closure dates will be confirmed with a construction contractor once a contract has been awarded.

Where can I launch my boat while the Cowes boat ramp is closed?

The nearest boat ramps are located at Newhaven, Rhyll, and Corinella. For more information on local boat ramps please visit https://www.boating.vic.gov.au

Will we get regular updates to let us know how the project is progressing?

Monthly updates will be provided on the Better Boating Victoria and Bass Coast Shire websites.

 

 

 

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