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Time to have a say on Cotter Dam enlargement

By johnboy - 11 October 2008 26

The way taxpayer funded TV advertising would have you believe it the Cotter Dam expansion is already underway.

So I’m absolutely fascinated to see ACTEW slip out the door today, a Saturday, a call for public comment on the draft Environmental Impact Statement for the project.

So, either the project is actually still in a pre-approval phase, or they don’t plan on actually listening to the public comment?

What’s Your opinion?


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26 Responses to
Time to have a say on Cotter Dam enlargement
RuffnReady 10:54 pm 11 Oct 08

Thanks for that, Granny. 🙂

“One of the things is … I think it’s about 4.8 gigalitres at the moment, the lower Cotter, you’re testing my memory back here, and it needs to go up to 78.

“If you look at what’s happening across the ACT that particular dam is in what they call a productive catchment. So you’re actually getting more water falling and inflows into that area, but you’ve actually got a very small cup that you actually could stock a big bucket in.”

So that implies that the area between Cotter and Bendora Dam is producing more catchment flow than can be captured in the current, 4.8GL Cotter Dam. If so, increasing the size of the Cotter makes sense (from a Canberra water supply perspective)Thus, the environmental impact will be negligible on top of the existing dam since the major impact of dams is their changes to flow rates and patterns in the river downstream – the existing dam has already interrupted the flow, so the impact of the new dam will effectively only be on the slopes of the hills, and the 100m downstream of the dam.

However, the water currently passing over the Cotter due to its small capacity, that would, be entering the Murrumbidgee system, will no longer be available to those downstream… I wonder who is advocating for them in this process?

Granny 8:59 pm 11 Oct 08

Dr Maxine Cooper, the ACT Commissioner for Sustainability, had some interesting observations to make on this at the September meeting of the Gungahlin Community Council.

The video footage is online at the GCC and Canberra Votes websites. I just watched the whole presentation again. It is quite fascinating if you are interested in such things, and extremely locally relevant.

After her presentation on the ACT State of the Environment Report, Gungahlin Al asked Dr Cooper a question about the environmental impact on the expansion of the dam.

Dr Cooper informed the meeting that she had personally led the water security task force, and they wouldn’t have made the recommendations they made if the eWater Cooperative Research Centre hadn’t done some preliminary studies that indicated “if the right things are done in terms of monitoring and in managing, the impact should be able to be effectively managed.”

“Now I’m not involved in the day to day, but there should be environmental studies on specific issues, there should be some rigorous monitoring, and that’s the kind of question you’d have to ask ACTEW as to that.”

Gungahlin Al then asked about the area of bushland that would be lost to the expansion.

Apparently the majority of the land is that lower Cotter area which was planted with pine as you went out towards the Cotter before the 2003 bushfires. Since the pines were destroyed in the fires, the land has slowly been reverting back to natives.

“One of the exciting things for people in the environmental field is nobody thought that the natives would come through to the degree they have.

“So it’s come through but that’s going to be a weed infested landscape for decades, so the issue that you have as a society:

* Do you actually try and manage for the natives to come back,
* Do you actually have a cultivated landscape in pines, or
* Do you actually have a bias towards the native, but you’ve got to put up with the weeds till over time the systems come back?

“And one of the key issues that they looked at in the decision making was around the frequency of fires that are likely to come through. We’re likely under climate change scenarios to get greater intense fires through there more frequently.

“Well, if a pine crop takes, I think it’s around 28 – 30 years before it gets to the right stage, and then you harvest it; if your fire’s coming through at say 20 year intervals, your pine crop never gets to the stage for commercial viability to harvest it.

“So all those kind of issues were looked at; but I think, for most of that dam, you will actually find that it’s in that area there.

“One of the things I think … look it’s a really complex issue, because I thought I’d never be involved in a project where I’d actually recommend to go ahead with a dam.

“There’s a few things that, you know, when you start off your career you say, ‘I’m not going to work for that, and I’ll never agree to that,’ and so for me it was interesting to look at that. There are a whole lot of variables there that just made incredible sense for this community.

“One of the things is … I think it’s about 4.8 gigalitres at the moment, the lower Cotter, you’re testing my memory back here, and it needs to go up to 78.

“If you look at what’s happening across the ACT that particular dam is in what they call a productive catchment. So you’re actually getting more water falling and inflows into that area, but you’ve actually got a very small cup that you actually could stock a big bucket in.

“So it made sense, once the fire had come through, we’re going back to plant it into natives, that all the variables to me kind of fitted together.

“For where people were talking … well, you should build the Tennant dam. Well, that’s got a whole lot of rural, it’s got a whole lot of environmental, but also fundamentally you’re not getting the rainfall in that particular area that you used to.

“Googong – no rain – but when they first thought it was a good idea, they actually had the rain.

“But at least with the Cotter, you’ve got it with the Bendora and Corin. It’s a part of that chain system, so you can manage it to move water down and manage it that way.

“So Googong … what they’re doing with the proposed sort of security for the region is they’re taking water out of the Murrumbidgee and trying to pump it into, if you like, a big bucket where you can store a bit more water and then use it through the system in a flexible way. So what we’ve … I mean, water’s always a big problem.”

JC 6:01 pm 11 Oct 08

Wide Boy Jake said :

Nobody has yet said whether the expansion will swamp the picnic area, or whether the historic bridge near the pumping station will have to go. Perhaps someone could finally give us a definitive answer because I’d really like to know.

It says the new wall will be 125m (or so) downstream of the existing wall, so the bridge and the picnic ground will be fine. (having said that I reckon it will be the location of the site offices etc)

Have a look on google earth and you will see a small circular car park, the wall be near there.

monomania 4:04 pm 11 Oct 08

Secondly, the river flow will most likely be increased *pay attention now kayakers and canoeheads*.

I don’t understand Footloose. A dam stores water. Why would the flow increase?

Footloose 3:07 pm 11 Oct 08

Ok guys. As someone who actually attended one of the community consultation workshops regarding the recreation areas at the cotter, let me tell you what I learnt.
Firstly, the picnic area is going to be fine; the new dam area will come about 80-100 metres down the valley from where it already is.
Secondly, the river flow will most likely be increased *pay attention now kayakers and canoeheads*.
Thirdly, if you dont show up to the consultations, you will NEVER know if they’re listening or not. If you do show up, they might actually value a lot of what you say.
Even though there was only 18 people at the workshop I attended, we all had such varied skills, backgrounds and perspectives and the fact we all cared enough about it to make the effort was really valued by the ACTEW people.
We knew the area better than them and we use the area more than them so they REALLY valued the information we were providing them with. Our insight was probably worth more to them than the office bound consultants that charged them $$$$.
What was dissapointing was the lack of commitment on behalf of the government, who didnt even show up. The Cotter Area and Weston Creek have suffered SOOOOO much from the fires and it’s just bollocks that they’re attitude towards the whole thing *post inquest* is to just sweep it under the carpet and act like it didnt happen.
Anyway, back on track now… if you have something to say on the EIS, go on and say it!! The people running the project out there seem geniuinely interested in community opinion.
Get involved dudes, its interesting and worthwhile.

sepi 2:58 pm 11 Oct 08

‘Consultation’ just means putting a whole lot of ads in the paper about planned ‘consultation’ then holding a quick meeting at short notice in an unlikely location on a bad time like grand final day, and then telling the 5 people who show up what the plan is.

Then you’ve ticked the consultation box (stanhope style), and off you go with your project, exactly how you’d always planned.

With the added bonus that you can now brag about having done community consultation.

monomania 1:51 pm 11 Oct 08

Wide Boy Jake said :

Nobody has yet said whether the expansion will swamp the picnic area, or whether the historic bridge near the pumping station will have to go. Perhaps someone could finally give us a definitive answer because I’d really like to know.

The dam is upstream of the bridge and pumping station. The bridge and pumping station should be fine unless the dam breaks. The dam is probably doing to be on top of the picnic area

monomania 1:25 pm 11 Oct 08

Thanks miz.

Pity the ICRC commissioner didn’t take more notice of Terry Dwyer before ruling on the last lot of water price increases.

miz 12:54 pm 11 Oct 08

Water2WATER? An opportunity to say ‘I’m not drinking that sh!t’ and mean it!

Seriously though, it might educate ACTEW aparachiks and peons alike to watch Stateline – they have been showing a series on choosing a site for the national capital, and decided on the current Canberra location because it had so much access to water supplies. (However I don’t think they envisaged that legless lizards, rare moths and the like would get priority over people requiring clean drinking water!)

Plans for Canberra and its water have gone back a long time, and ACTEW’s Future Options paper says we have enough for a million – er, so long as they don’t keep pulling the plug out (reference below)

http://www.icrc.act.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/71178/Paper_Terry_Dwyer_Sept_07.pdf

monomania 12:26 pm 11 Oct 08

Think water, act water still has as one of it’s 4 key water targets to

“increase the proportion of treated effluent (reclaimed water) that is reused from 5 per cent to 20 per cent by 2013”

The Green’s have a very strong emphasis on reducing water demand. They want a third pipe to Molonglo to supply recycled water for all but potable (drinking) use.

Have the Green’s said they support this dam? Anti-damism is in their souls and the urban environment doesn’t appear to be particularly important to them.

Stanhope won’t take much convincing. He never wanted a dam, he wanted water reclamation but balked when his expert committee said it wasn’t safe to tip so much reclaimed water into such a little dam.

Some new experts will probably tell us it can be sent straight to the reservoirs.

Here comes water2WATER again, if it ever went away.

RuffnReady 12:15 pm 11 Oct 08

Welkin, you can’t just bin the environmental impact process for ANY major project – that is 1950s thinking. If we’re going to try and manage the environmental and social impacts of development properly we need rigorous processes, just as the economics must be costed and due diligence done.

Jake, why don’t you read the EIS – I’m sure it covers your questions, and johnboy has been kind enough to link you to it.

Have to laugh though – I’m surprised that one of the parties hasn’t promised the electorate MORE RAIN to fill the increased capacity of the dam when completed, since that is actually the problem isn’t it? lmao

welkin31 11:54 am 11 Oct 08

I think having an EIS process in this case where the land has surely been dedicated for water resources purposes for a century, is a waste of public time and money.
I am fascinated to find out what the Greens will do about this in the new assembly.
They are not noted for being pro-dam.

Wide Boy Jake 10:47 am 11 Oct 08

Nobody has yet said whether the expansion will swamp the picnic area, or whether the historic bridge near the pumping station will have to go. Perhaps someone could finally give us a definitive answer because I’d really like to know.

captainwhorebags 10:35 am 11 Oct 08

Yeah, this came completely out of left field for me too. I thought this was a done deal. In fact, I half expected to see earthworks if I drove out there.

miz 10:27 am 11 Oct 08

“either the project is actually still in a pre-approval phase, or they don’t plan on actually listening to the public comment?” Surprise, surprise – this is the current ACT govt’s modus operandi. Particularly unethical when using misleading info such as this in their electioneering, as you have pointed out.

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