18 May 2023

'Disgrace': Fears Wyangala Dam upgrade may be scrapped

| Oliver Jacques
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Steph Cooke at Wyangala Dam.

Steph Cooke at Wyangala Dam. She said she was disappointed the upgrade project had not been allocated funding. Photo: Supplied.

There are fears a $650 million proposal to raise the wall at Wyangala Dam by 10 metres is poised to be scrapped, after federal Labor refused to allocate any funding to the joint state-Commonwealth project in its upcoming budgets.

Nationals Riverina MP Michael McCormack has called the decision a “disgrace” and says the project “will never see the light under a Labor government”.

However, NSW Labor Water Minister Rose Jackson says the business case for the proposal is being independently reviewed and a decision won’t be made until the recommendations are handed down next month.

The 1928-built Wyangala Dam, located near Cowra, stores 1200 gigalitres of water to support irrigated agriculture and provide household tap water supply across the Lachlan Valley – including for towns such as Hillston, Condobolin and Forbes.

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In 2019, the NSW Nationals pledged to raise the dam wall by 10 metres, which would increase storage capacity by a further 650 gigalitres.

The project requires funding from both state and federal governments, but with Labor now in power at both levels, support for new dams has waned. The Federal Government recently axed funding for the National Party’s plan to build a new Dungowan dam near Tamworth and has also deferred funding for Wyangala Dam, a decision which has frustrated Lachlan Valley Water executive officer Mary Ewing.

“Raising the dam wall by 10 metres will provide security for irrigations and towns in droughts as well as flood mitigation,” she said.

Ms Ewing pointed to the damage wrought by the floods across the Lachlan Valley in October and November 2022.

“If they could have ramped back the release, it would have helped mitigate the flood damage. It wouldn’t have prevented it, but it would have helped manage some of the severe flooding.”

She also stated that the region was struggling to cope with extended dry periods, and that town water supply was restricted during the 2006 drought.

Opponents of the project, such as Booligal farmer Gordon Turner and various environmental groups, claim it would undermine bird breeding events in the wetlands reliant on the dam spilling. It is also argued the extra water capacity would rarely be used and not provide value for taxpayer dollars, with the Greens NSW tabling secret documents indicating the total cost may have blown out to $2 billion.

Minister Jackson says the project’s value is currently being assessed.

“The Wyangala Dam Final Business Case review is underway,” she said. “It is being independently reviewed by Infrastructure NSW who provide strategic advice to the NSW Government to ensure the state is getting the infrastructure it needs. It will deliver its recommendations next month. A rigorous and robust final business case is a vital part of the planning and development process for all NSW Government projects and ensures the NSW Government is making informed, evidence-based investment decisions.”

Wyangala Dam during drought

A dry Wyangala Dam during the 2006 drought. Photo: Flickr.

Nationals MP Michael McCormack doubts the project will go ahead under Labor.

“Labor has kicked the funding for Wyangala Dam into the never-never.

“First of all we have the Federal Government not interested in water infrastructure. It has shelved Dungowan Dam, it has deferred the Wyangala Dam Wall Raising Project and it will never see the light of day under a Labor government.

“Central West residents know all too well the Newell Highway closes when there is a significant Lachlan River flooding event, which grinds local communities and economies to a halt and wreaks havoc on our road transport industry which uses this highway – the longest highway in New South Wales – as a major connection to Victoria and Queensland.

“I am very annoyed this Labor Federal Government has refused to support dam building – this is nothing short of a disgrace.”

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Shadow Minister for Water Steph Cooke, who represents the Cootamundra electorate, where the Wyangala Dam is located, championed the project when in government.

“It is very disappointing federal Labor has once again deferred the Wyangala Dam Wall Raising Project,” she said.

“The project is crucial to delivering water security and flood mitigation benefits for communities which have experienced extremes of both drought and flooding within the space of four years.

“State Labor must take this water infrastructure project seriously, and people deserve to know if the Minister has picked up the phone to Canberra to fight for this important funding.”

Greens MP Cate Faehrmann, by contrast, is advocating strongly for the project to be scrapped, calling it an “expensive brain fart by the Nationals”.

“[It] will devastate the precious vast wetlands system of the lower Lachlan if built,” she added.

Updates on the Wyangala Dam Raising Wall Project can be found on the NSW Water website.

Original Article published by Oliver Jacques on Region Riverina.

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Well it’s happened. Labour knuckle-draggers again. Australia land of DROUGHTS and (rarely) flooding rains. Labour and their Marxist Green bed-mates hate wster. Population rises. Drought frequency rises but maybe some funnel web spider habitats might be flooded. A state and federal disgrace. We still don’t have a national water policy. The Murray water buy backs cost $12 billion while destroying communities and agribusiness. But that’s Labour’s intent, isn’t it?

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