Local farmers support Clarence dam, despite opposition

19th April 2007Plans to dam the Clarence, NSW’s largest volume river, and pipe tens of thousands of megalitres to parched south-east Queenslanders have met with vehement community opposition – and unexpected farmer support.

As previously reported, the local mayor and others have labelled the plan ‘a disaster’.

Conservationists and Clarence fishermen claim an estuary that supports a wide range of migratory birds and is a major fish spawning ground would be severely affected by a dam.

But NSW Farmers Far North Coast district council chairman, Jamie Ramsay, ‘Colbille’ at Bonalbo, said governments were ‘mad’ to not take every chance to use excess water.

The volume of water flowing down the Clarence would mean once a dam was full, people downstream wouldn’t even notice the difference, he said.

If the infrastructure was there, water could be used in northern NSW as the population grew, as well as securing irrigation water for farmers on the Clarence.

But farmers were uneasy, he said, about the lack of detail.

“Landholders don’t want to be in a position where they can’t sell or do anything with their properties because the plans are not definite,” Mr Ramsay said.

A Federal Government feasibility study has found five economically viable options to improve water security in south-east Queensland by moving water from the high-rainfall Far North Coast river catchments in NSW.

The report says costs of up to $1.5 billion to tap into this water are a lot cheaper than supply projects now planned for Queensland.

The report’s ‘best value’ option is a 250,000 megalitre dam on the Clarence River upstream from Duck Creek, near Urbenville, diverting 15pc of the Clarence’s flow.

It would provide up to 100,000 megalitres a year, mostly to Queensland. The Queensland Government would foot the bill.

The idea, talked about in the Clarence Valley since the 1960s, is based on collecting excess water that now flows out to sea, often causing large-scale infrastructure and crop damage during floods.

SOURCE: Extract from report in The Land, NSW, April 19.