Sunday, October 21, 2007

Report clears way for Traveston Dam, Australian Aborigines to Lose Ancestral Tribal Land

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh says an environmental study into the controversial Traveston Crossing Dam provides a "rock solid case" for it to go ahead.

The environmental impact statement (EIS) for the $1.7 billion project on the Mary River near Gympie, north of Brisbane, noted the dam would impact on rare flora and fauna, and the local community, but said such impacts could be managed.

The EIS, released in state parliament on Thursday, also found alternatives - including a Sunshine Coast desalination plant, a series of smaller dams on the Mary River and a dam on NSW's Clarence River - were up to a $1 billion more expensive.

Ms Bligh said the science was sound and she was confident the mitigation measures would stack up.

"The environmental impact study presents, in my view, a rock solid case to approve the Traveston Crossing Dam," Ms Bligh told reporters in Brisbane.

The dam, due to be built by the end of 2011, will provide an extra 70,000 megalitres of water a year to south-east Queensland, which is currently experiencing the worst drought on record and needs at least 330,000ML/year by 2051 to meet growth.

The government is building a water grid - comprising dams, a Gold Coast desalination plant, recycled water plants and pipelines - as well as enforcing tough water restrictions to meet a target of an extra 210,000ML/year by 2026.

The EIS said the Upper Mary Valley catchment received 55 per cent more rain on average per year than the existing Wivenhoe Dam catchment.

The study showed Traveston would be full or near full more than 80 per cent of the time, have lower evaporation rates than Wivenhoe and its environmental impact could be minimised.

"The potential environmental impacts of the project are similar to that, or less than, a combination of dams that could provide the same yield, particularly with respect to potential impact on rare and threatened species, state forests, wildlife corridors and areas of scientific importance," the report said.

But the report raised concerns about the dam's social impact, which were "greater than some of the alternatives".

It also identified three areas of significance to the local Aboriginal people within the area to be flooded, with another four within several hundred metres of the flooded area.

But the 1,600 page, five-volume report said further consultation and a $50 million package of environmental and social "mitigation" projects would address concerns.

The projects included a cultural heritage strategy, new community and sports facilities, a freshwater species conservation centre, steam trains, food and fibre program for local farmers and a hardwood timber plantation.

The community would also received an economic spin-off from the construction project.

Ms Bligh said 66 per cent of properties needed to make way for the dam had been voluntarily acquired - proof the compensation offered was fair.

Properties would not be compulsorily acquired until federal approval was given, she said.

Australian Conservation Foundation campaigner Kate Noble said the dam was "completely unacceptable".

"You cannot manage away the fact that damming the Mary River will be a death sentence for species of national environmental significance," Ms Noble said.

"The federal environment minister needs to reject this dam proposal entirely."

Queensland Opposition Leader Jeff Seeney said the report could not be "rock solid" because it was yet to be tested by the public over the coming six weeks of consultation.

"It's not proof of anything," Mr Seeney said.

Here is the full article.