The NSW Government has announced the results of a thorough investigation into water security options for the Lachlan region, with the raising of the Wyangala dam wall a key recommendation.
Visiting Wyangala on Tuesday morning Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Water, Niall Blair said drought security and flood management have been dual challenges for the Lachlan Valley and this potential infrastructure plan will alleviate those issues and deliver a much better system for the community.
Mr Blair was at Wyangala with member for Cootamundra Steph Cook, Cowra mayor Bill West and Parliamentary Secretary for Western NSW, Rick Colless
“The study, completed in two phases, examined raising the wall at Wyangala Dam by 10 metres against constructing a new dam near Cranky Rock on the Belubula River,” Mr Blair said.
“Raising the wall was found to be the superior option in terms of cost, flood mitigation, hydrological modelling benefits, construction risk and environmental sustainability.
“It will increase the capacity to hold water in periods of surplus and deliver controlled release when water is needed. Crucially, it provides increased capability to manage flood events.
“We know that a project like that combined with what we’re doing with Lake Rowlands to Carcoar (Dam) is more cost effective and provides increased water security but also will be available for flood mitigation in the Lachlan Valley.
“Currently, the water delivery system in the Lachlan Valley lacks the capacity and capability to mitigate in periods of drought and flood and the reliability of water availability is well below acceptable standards - this plan will resolve that.”
“This valley, in the last two years, has seen floods and drought that’s why we need projects like this to manage both of those things.”
Mr Blair said we needed to be able to release water when needed and hold it back when needed.
“That’s the key to these projects, they provide a better long term solution for everyone in the Lachlan Valley, the local businesses, the local communities and our farmers,” Mr Blair said.
If the project proceeds it is expected to increase the capacity of Wyangala by 50 per cent.
“It is an irrigation dam and that is first and foremost,” Mr Blair said.
“We want to make sure we are able to continue to supply our farmers with reliable water with a project like this,” he said.
“Raising the dam here is a better long term solution for the Lachlan Valley.
“This makes sense, it’s increasing existing infrastructure, making it better for the residents downstream.”
Costing the project, Mr Blair said, is the next stage of the proposal.
“We need to get on and have a look at the engineering and we’ll know then how much we need to go and ask for out of the capital expenditure of the budget.
“Now is the time to do that, we’ve got records amounts of money flowing into infrastructure in regional NSW.
“That will be my job to make sure a project like this gets off the ground and communities downstream will see the benefits.
“We have some estimates and we believe it is a better value for money proposal than a greenfield site at Cranky Rock,” he said.
Pressed to put a dollar figure on the work Mr Blair admitted “it would be hundreds of millions of dollars”.
“That is something we need to fully understand when we go through the next stages of this project.
“We’re prepared for that, we were committed to an infrastructure build in the Lachlan Valley that’s why we did the study and we’ve come up with what we believe are two better projects that provide more water security and more reliability in flood mitigation for the Lachlan Valley.
“We take these projects step by step,” he said.
Welcoming the news Member for Cootamundra, Steph Cooke said: “The inability of the water system to mitigate (flood and drought) events is having adverse economic, social, and environmental impacts for the region’s water dependent agricultural and mining industries”.
“These industries contribute heavily to the economies of our local communities and one cannot survive without the other.”
The NSW Government will now consider these recommendations before making a decision regarding the funding for the necessary engineering studies and statutory environmental approvals.