Controversial Qld Dam Enters Approval Phase
By Rich Bowden (originally published in theangle.org)
The decision on whether or not to give the green light to Queensland's controversial dam at Traveston Crossing now officially rests with federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett after Coordinator-General Colin Jensen gave approval for the first stage of the project.
In his 378-page report, the result of a three year assessment, Mr Jensen recommended 1,200 conditions to be met during the first stage of the project. He added that a broader second stage of the project was not viable, according to The Australian.
The Environment Minister now has a time frame of 30 days to examine the coordinator-general's report before making his decision.
The Traveston Crossing dam has prompted ongoing protests from environmentalists who consider that it will endanger rare species without providing the water security for the region as claimed by the Queensland Government.
Dam water security 'a myth'
With drought conditions threatening the south east of the state's water supply, the government has repeatedly claimed that the dam is necessary to ensure adequate water supplies for the south east of the state. Premier Anna Bligh warned in a September 14 statement that the water supply of the state capital Brisbane would be at risk should the dam not be approved.
"Ultimately the lives of more than two million people and their ability to drink is at stake here," she said to reporters.
"The next time a drought hits southeast Queensland, and it will, I want to make sure people have got the water they need to drink and to conduct their lives."
However Save the Mary River Coordinating Group secretary David Kreutz said in an October 7 news release that the water security rationale for the dam given by the Queensland Government is false.
“The Coordinator General bases his report on the assumption that the Traveston Crossing dam is a key component of the Queensland Governments strategy to provide secure water supplies for South East Queensland,” said Mr Kreutz.
“This is a myth,” he stated.
Darryl Stewart, president of the Greater Mary Association, also said the dam would not provide the much-needed water security to residents.
“It would be a dogger of a dam in a drought,” he explained. “We’ve repeatedly made the point that it would fail in less than 18 months of dry conditions. The Government has never been able to refute this."
“You’d be crazy to call this water security,” he added.
With increasing inconsistencies and environmental concerns surrounding the dam, the Queensland Opposition is placing Premier Anna Bligh under immense political pressure to rethink the entire project.
Queensland Opposition spokesman David Gibson called on the Government to scrap the dam saying the 1,200 conditions applied by the coordinator general clearly indicated the dam was a severe environmental risk.
"If she [Premier Anna Bligh] has any environmental concerns or credibility at all left in her she should walk away from this project," he said in a statement quoted by the ABC.
"Any project that has over 1,200 environmental conditions associated with it clearly is a project that is of great risk to the environment and one that we don't need to pursue - there are other alternatives."
"With any project there would be conditions, but over 1,200 conditions is extensive and for the Premier to try and spin this as being the most environmentally friendly and greenest dam ever built just hides the fact that this dam is a risk to the environment," said Mr Gibson.
Another criticism of the effect of the Traveston Crossing dam lies in the risk it poses to rare species such as the Australian lungfish and the Mary River turtle and the proven ineffectiveness of fishways to transport fish over dam walls.
Despite Queensland Infrastructure Minister Stirling Hinchliffe's claim on the 7.30 Report on Monday October 5, that "we need to use, and I'm sure we will use, the latest and best science to develop a working fishway to support all of the species," experts say the fishway technology, already in use at Paradise dam, near Bundaberg, has failed.
"We discovered basically what had been happening was that the downstream fishway effectively wasn't operating at all because the water levels weren't up to a point where that could operate, and we also discovered that...the upstream fishway had barely been functioning in the previous three to four years up to the instituting of the legal proceedings," said Roger Currie, of the Wide Bay Burnett Conservation Council to the 7.30 Report.
Mr Currie said only three lungfish in three years had made the trip over the dam wall at Paradise dam.
Natural habitat needed for survival
Environmentalists meeting to mark Australian Freshwater Turtle day on Saturday 3rd October have said that only natural, undisturbed habitat was the best way to ensure the survival of unique species such as the Mary River turtle.
David Kreutz, secretary of the Save the Mary River Coordinating Group said in a news release that the Traveston dam, should it be approved, would not be able to provide the conditions needed for the turtle's survival.
“If built the proposed Traveston Crossing dam would not provide natural habitat,” said David Kreutz, secretary of the Save the Mary River Coordinating Group. “It will flood areas that are essential for breeding and for the survival of young turtles. The proposed dam is a direct threat to the survival of the Mary River turtle.”
“The Mary River turtle occurs nowhere else in the world, but the Mary River,” explained Darryl Stewart, president of the Greater Mary Association. “A long list of international turtle experts are concerned about the future of the species. After all, the IUCN has listed it amongst the 25 most endangered turtles in the world.”
The release also quoted Dr. Gerald Kuchling, who wrote an independent report to inform Minister Garrett’s decision regarding Traveston, confirming the importance of natural habitat for survival of the Mary River Turtle.
“...the Traveston Crossing Dam (TCD) would modify, destroy, remove, isolate and decrease the availability and quality of habitat to the extent that the Mary River Turtle (Elusor macrurus) would be likely to decline,” Dr Kuchling's report said.
The State Government has so far ignored environmental concerns claiming Traveston would be the "greenest dam in Australian history."