The EPA’s objective for the Factor Benthic Communities and Habitats is “to protect benthic communities and habitats so that biological diversity and ecological integrity are maintained”. The purpose of this Guidance is to explain how impacts on benthic communities and habitats (BCH) are considered during Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and to set out the type and form of the information that should be presented to facilitate the assessment of impacts on BCH in Western Australia’s marine environment.
This Guidance supersedes Environmental Assessment Guideline No.3 (EPA 2009), which mainly focused on protection of the primary producer component of BCH, and sets out:
- the EPA’s contemporary approach for considering activities which may directly or indirectly cause impact or serious damage to, or irreversible loss of, benthic communities and habitats;
- considerations for impact mitigation and how they should be applied;
- a framework for considering cumulative loss of benthic communities and habitats and the potential consequences for marine ecological integrity and biological diversity;
- the EPA’s expectations for information to be supplied by proponents for EIA; and
- the boundaries of a local assessment unit for the Port of Port Hedland that replaces Environmental Protection Bulletin 14 (EPA 2011) and is to be used when assessing benthic impacts and cumulative losses of benthic communities and habitats in the area.
The geographic scope of this Guidance includes all Coastal Waters of Western Australia to the high water mark of the intertidal zone associated with the continental mainland and offshore islands.