Friday, June 11, 2004


Greenies everywhere hate dams, full stop ... BECAUSE dams use nature constructively. This Australian example shows how irrational they are about it

"Governments and multinational corporations feel increasingly compelled to appease the great green beast in ways that have little relation to the health of the environment. Whether it's oil company donations or "partnerships" with green groups, or banks sending backroom workers to the Amazon for five weeks to work on some environmental project, it is all about buying protection for the organisation and safeguarding the share price from green attack. Of course, no matter how many offerings are laid on its altar, the green beast is never appeased....

Green zealotry has also won when it comes to solving Sydney's water crisis. Carr and his Utilities Minister, Frank Sartor, are determined Sydney will not get a new dam, even though the population is growing by 1000 people a month, and blame "climate change" for water shortages.

In 2002, Carr locked up land that had been set aside for the planned Welcome Reef Dam on the Shoalhaven River to Sydney's south. He created a 6000-hectare (not 600 as I inadvertently wrote last week) nature reserve from land that had been acquired by state governments over almost 40 years. The abandonment of the dam, near Braidwood, was accompanied by a green propaganda campaign, that claimed Welcome Reef was hopelessly dry and that the dam would destroy endangered species and ancient eucalypts, ruin the Shoalhaven gorge and take a decade to fill.

But John Brown, the civil engineer and hydrology specialist who did the original environmental impact study on the Welcome Reef Dam, said yesterday that none of those criticisms were borne out by his study. The study was carried out by the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation for the Metropolitan Water Sewerage and Drainage Board (now Sydney Water) between 1975 and 1979, with the EIS completed in 1980. Brown says although the report is old, little about the landscape has changed.

He said scientists from the CSIRO Division of Wildlife Research and NSW State Fisheries conducted "very detailed field surveys over a 12-month period in which a census of bird species was made at monthly intervals at 17 sites and augmented by monthly counts along a 24-kilometre strip. Mammals, reptiles and frogs were identified in nocturnal and daylight surveys as well as by the use of live traps. Vegetation was identified and classified. It was concluded that none of the species of fauna identified was endangered or relies on habitats unique to the area that would be inundated, and all the plant species identified have a wide distribution outside the same area."

As for "ruining" the Shoalhaven Gorge, Brown says that "after the dam is constructed the same quantity of water, less evaporation losses, would flow through the gorge. There would be a change in its temporal distribution with the flow during dry periods increased and that in high flow periods and floods decreased." Brown also scoffs at claims the dam would take a decade to fill. He found there was only a 10 per cent chance it would not fill to its minimum operating level in four months. The whole point of a dam is to capture and store water during periods of high rainfall to be used during low rainfall.

The most damaging claim - that the site is in hopeless rainshadow - Brown also thumps. Yes, it is in a "bit of a rainshadow" but so is much of Warragamba's catchment area. Welcome Reef still gets 800 to 1000millimetres of rain a year. Of all the possible dam sites he examined, Welcome Reef was by far the best, and the least environmentally sensitive.

Brown worked on the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Scheme, and says it never would have been built today because of opposition from green groups. The irony is that the Snowy scheme provides clean green power, eliminating the need for more coal-power and associated greenhouse gases. The benefit of hydro-power, Brown says, is available at the turn of a tap, unlike coal-burning generators which take time to stoke up.

Welcome Reef deserves more investigation. Brown says there is no reason for dam to be a four-letter word. "From the earliest time, civilisation has been based on the diversion of water into dams. Without it we would still be cavemen." Which is exactly what the green beast wants.

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