Concern over dolphins prompted the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) on Wednesday to reject an environmental impact assessment (EIA) for a Port of Taichung expansion project.
A review committee said that the developer, Taiwan Power Co (Taipower), must submit a new plan that would sufficiently protect a habitat of the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin near the port.
The EPA in 2018 ordered the “two-phase EIA review” because the initial review ruled that the project needs to be subjected to additional scrutiny because the dolphins are known to use waters close to the construction zone.
In a report to the committee, Taipower said that a proposed liquefied natural gas pier at the dock — consisting of an embankment and other installations — is necessary to safely offload fuel from ships.
Taipower said that the dolphin habitat is outside the boundary of the proposed construction zone.
The dolphins are active at depths of 21m to 25m, meaning that a proposed breakwater would not disrupt their migratory movements, Taipower said.
Committee members said that the company’s report failed to answer questions that were asked of it or respond meaningfully to the issues the committee posed.
Twenty Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins are known to inhabit the zone, including five full-grown animals and three juveniles that live exclusively in the area, the committee said, citing scientific reports.
The presence of the animals requires the developer to take reasonable precautions to protect their habitat and make provisions for rescuing wounded or stranded dolphins, plans Taipower failed to present, it said.
Taipower must also assess the extent to which the expansion project would increase erosion and liquefaction of the Dadu River Estuary Wildlife Refuge, increasing geological risks, the committee said.
The company must make the improvements the committee seeks to resubmit its construction plan, it said.
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