Bunbury city council has voted 10 to 2 in favour of raising the height of the Koombana Bay rail footbridge, after months of heated debate.
The bridge is being replaced as part of a multi-million dollar Koombana Bay revitalisation project and was planned to be rebuilt at the same height as the previous bridge.
Inlet user groups such as Bunbury’s boating community voiced their safety concerns about the height of the footbridge and successfully pushed for council to raise it by 1400mm.
The current bridge height is too low for many boats to safely pass and restricts boating access into the Leschenault inlet and the Bunbury Yacht Club.
Bunbury councillor Michelle Steck said she supported raising the bridge height because Bunbury’s current boating facilities were inadequate.
“It’s causing a lot of angst for the boating community because it’s so low it affects their capacity to go in and out of the inlet safely,” she said.
“If a boats antenna hits the bridge and breaks, what occurs is the boaties can be stuck out at sea with no emergency equipment or radio.”
“You can’t put the 6,500 boaties that use the facility at risk.”
Sportsmarine Boat Centre owner Greg Collett helped organise a rally earlier this month at Bunbury’s Power Boat Club carpark to call for the raising of the bridge height.
“The main purpose was to show people on the street and the City Council that we’re not just a handful of people,” he said.
“We had 50 people turning up towing their boats, plus around 15 larger boats on the water.
“There’s a massive community of boaters in Bunbury so it does affect a lot of people.”
Mr Collett did not believe an increased bridge height could lead to an overcrowding of boats in the inlet.
“The restriction floodgates stop that,” he said.
“All raising the bridge is about is making the boats using the ramps now able to get in and out safely.
“Incidents of antennas and canopies hitting the bridge are happening continually.
“Any boats above 7m you have to literally be standing out the side of the boat going under the bridge with someone observing if you’re going to hit it or not, it’s crazy.”
“This is about safety, that’s all it is.”
The bridge is set to be completed by January 2018 and will cost around $500,000.