Museum Victoria's Rich agreed: "He's right. In 29 years of working this coast, the deepest fossil we've found was half a meter [1.6 feet] down.
"They're talking about burrowing 20 meters [25.6 feet] below the surface, which makes good engineering sense," he noted.
"There is no emergency whatsoever," Rich said, adding that carefully dug construction tunnels might even reveal more fossils.
On December 1 The Age reported that Holding had released a project report to Planning Minister Justin Madden, who has 20 business days from that date to decide whether to commission an environmental impact statement.
Project manager Garry Seaborne said development on the 49- to 74-acre (20- to 30-hectare) plant would continue during the deliberation.
The facility—due for completion around 2011—would desalinate seawater through a process known as reverse osmosis and send it through a massive network of pipes to Melbourne, which is currently suffering severe water restrictions.
The Victoria coast is famous for yielding fossils of dinosaurs that lived about 200 million years ago, when the landmass that is now Australia lay much further south—well within the Antarctic Circle.
The climate would have been similar to the present-day U.S. Pacific Northwest: mild enough to support large numbers of herbivores but with harsh winters.
The so-called polar dinosaurs that lived there were warm-blooded and well adapted to the cold, Rich said.
They had keen night vision, which allowed them to forage among what were then forests during the long winter nights.
(Related photo: "'Polar Predator' Dino Tracks Found" [October 23, 2007].)
"It was a green world," Rich said, "but there were no reds, no yellows—basically, take out all the flowering plants. We're talking cycads, tree ferns, [evergreen trees called] podocarps, that sort of stuff."
His team has also worked at nearby Inverloch for the last 14 years unearthing the bones of meat-eating dinosaurs, turtles, lungfish, early mammals, and some of the few known remains of freshwater plesiosaurs, an otherwise largely marine group of aquatic carnivores.
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