Rous County Council Chair and Ballina Cr Keith Williams has written to Echonetdaily in response to yesterday’s story with Annie Kia and Nan Nicholson about the proposed Dunoon Dam.
His comments and illustrations are reproduced below in full.
‘Groundwater has been Rous County Council’s preferred future water strategy since 2014 and been the subject of detailed investigations over the past few years,’ said Cr Williams.
‘Relying on mining millions of litres of groundwater from the sand aquifers under our coastal wetlands at Tyagara and Newrybar, the report has found poor quality water, expensive treatment and distribution costs and the potential for major environmental impacts.
‘Accordingly the Future Water Strategy 2060 has recommended the abandonment of this strategy with the exception of the immediate progression of one small scheme near Alstonville.
‘A second dam on Rocky Creek is now being recommended for further investigation because it is the lowest cost option for our region’s future water supply, costing some $250 million less than the next cheapest option, groundwater, on a ‘whole of life’ basis ($650m – $900m).
‘Much of this cost saving is in energy. A dam located at the top of the catchment uses gravity rather than electricity for its distribution.
‘The Rous County Council reports identify 57Ha of native vegetation in the dam footprint, some of which is identified as Big Scrub Rainforest remnant. Whether these ecological communities are unique to the site or are able to be offset by other regeneration works in the immediate catchment needs further detailed investigation and assessment.
‘Rous has already restored more than 200Ha in the buffer around the existing Rocky Creek Dam.
‘Nan Nicholson has undoubted rainforest expertise and I’m sure would have much to contribute to this assessment. Any decision to proceed with a dam still requires substantial investigations that will take some years.
‘Rous County Council has a long history of involvement in Reconciliation, providing avenues for Indigenous participation and recognition of Indigenous heritage.
‘With the greatest respect to the non-indigenous community, we will continue our discussions with the relevant Indigenous parties in private. We will not be providing a running public commentary on those discussions.
‘Rous County Council is here for the long term and we are planning and working accordingly.
‘We cannot ignore the impact of climate change over coming decades. We know it’s getting hotter and drier, that droughts will become more severe and more prolonged.
‘As we saw last October when Rocky Creek Dam fell 10% in a month, demand for water increases significantly when it’s hot and dry.
‘Rous supplies water to more than 100,000 people in urban areas and this demand will keep growing.
‘At our current rate of more than 500 new dwellings a year, the water supply will have to provide for 150,000 people within the next few decades.
‘The Future Water Plan has factored in a 40% reduction in demand from new dwellings due to recycled water and more water tanks.
‘But pretending that the region will cope with both a more hostile climate and substantial population growth simply with water efficiency measures, in my view, does this community a gross disservice.’
The Rous Future Water Project 2060 is currently on public display, with a decision due before the end of 2020.
Public comments are welcome, and can be made until the evening of Wednesday 9 September here.
More stories about the Dunoon Dam
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As Water Week draws to a close, with a theme of 'Caring for Water and Country', a group of Widjabul Wia-bal elders have emphatically said they do not want the Dunoon Dam proposal to be put back on the table by pro-dam councillors.
A redacted copy of the 2013 Ainsworth Cultural Heritage Impact Assessment document has been made publicly available on the Rous County Council website, clarifying the extensive Widjabul-Wiabul connections with the land which would have been inundated by the Dunoon Dam.
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