A small-scale dredging trial in Falmouth harbour to measure potential environmental impacts of relocating maerl habitat is due to go ahead this month.
Falmouth Harbour Commissioners have awarded the work to a Chatham-based specialist dredging contractor, following an open tender process.
It is hoped that work will begin in the week beginning September 17. The trial is expected to take six months.
FHC was granted consent to carry out the trial in July and invitations to tender were issued to companies who expressed an interest in the work earlier this year. The procedure was supervised by Cornwall Council.
The cost of the trial is expected to exceed £200,000, which is being funded jointly by FHC and Cornwall Council. The council is contributing towards the cost in order to ensure the environmental impacts of re-locating dead maerl habitat, which is proposed as a mitigation measure in the dredging consent application, are fully evaluated.
The trial licence was granted by the Marine Management Organisation and it will be carried out independently by Plymouth University's Marine Institute.
The trial results are expected to be crucial to the MMO's decision on whether to allow the controversial dredging of a deep water channel into the docks. The Port of Falmouth Development Initiative claim the channel is vital to its future success as a thriving working port.
Mark Sansom, Falmouth Harbour Master, said: "We are pleased to have awarded the contract and that the process is moving forward. This is an important step towards providing more evidence for consideration by the MMO in reaching a decision on the proposals for dredging a deep water channel into the docks."
The Port of Falmouth Development Initiative was formed in 2008 to prepare and progress proposals for the development of the port. It includes representatives from the council, FHC, A&P Falmouth, Pendennis Shipyard, Falmouth Petroleum Ltd and Cornwall Development Company.
James Cross, MMO chief executive, said: "We have agreed to the trial as it will provide information on the extent to which maerl and its associated communities survive and recover from translocation.
"The methodology has been reviewed and supported by an independent scientific advisory panel, which has been established to advise the MMO on the scientific robustness of the trial.
"We will review information from the trial, and other further evidence, to inform future licensing decisions on the Port of Falmouth development."
Tonight, FHC is holding an event to advise stakeholders of the latest developments. This will include presentations from those involved in its design and conduct, and will focus on the aims and methodology of the trial. Held at the National Maritime Museum Cornwall at 6pm, entry is by ticket only. Anyone wishing to attend should contact FHC via email@example.com