Sunday, 21 November 2010

More press on that call to dam and divert the Clarence River

Shan Goodwin in The Land on 19 November 2010 reports on the Clarence Valley response to calls for diversion of freshwater from the Clarence River catchment to the Murray Darling Basin.

Unfortunately like many other journalists she neglects to closely read a map and falls for the old furphy that the headwaters of the Clarence River lie in Queensland’s McPherson Ranges – instead of the more accurate Rivertree area in New South Wales. Even its northern-most minor tributary Koreelah Creek apparently begins below Wilson’s Peak on the NSW side of this mountain straddling the NSW-QLD border.

Nevertheless in this instance Shan attempts to take a balanced view of this issue and that is much appreciated by many Clarence Valley residents.

Clarence River can’t ‘spare a drop’ Shan Goodwin

CALLS for the mighty Clarence River in north-eastern NSW to come to the rescue of the Murray-Darling Basin have met with a firm “not possible” from those making a living on its banks.

Western NSW and Victorian irrigators facing up to 37 per cent water cuts under the just-released basin plan are agitating for excess water from the Clarence to be diverted over the Dividing Range into the western rivers system, arguing it is “criminal that thousands of gigalitres are running out to sea while a food producing industry is being shut down”.

With its headwaters in the McPherson Ranges in Queensland, the Clarence flows for nearly 400 kilometres through beef and cropping country to empty into the sea off the popular holiday towns of Yamba and Iluka.

The National Water Commission has measured its annual flow at about 3.25 million megalitres.

Siphoning of the Clarence was first touted in the 1930s as part of Sydney Harbour Bridge engineer Dr John Bradfield’s scheme to divert monsoon-fed Queensland rivers inland.

Feasibility studies into constructing dams with a 22km tunnel under the Gibraltar Ranges which would feed into the Beardy River, then the McIntyre and ultimately the Darling and Murray, show the technology is available but the costs would be phenomenal.

Inland politicians and industry leaders have long been pushing for further development of the concept – and Clarence River communities have continually fought off the “water raiders”.

In 2006, a “raid” from the Gold Coast and Brisbane proposing water be diverted there, where multi-storey housing had gone up at a much faster rate than services could cater for, met with fierce objection.

While North Coast primary producers have a lot more sympathy for the plight of inland irrigators than they do for the Queenslanders in population overdrive, they say that despite the image most people have of the massive Clarence the reality is the river cannot spare a drop.

The fresh water flushes during floods are the lifeblood of the region’s fishing industry, the biggest supplier of seafood in NSW, sustaining 140 wild harvest commercial fishermen.

Professional Fishermen’s Association executive officer, John Harrison, Maclean, said the fresh water flows brought nutrients and the opportunity for fish growth and there was “no room for a single drop” to be taken from the system without a detrimental impact on the fishing industry and environment.

More here.

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