Thursday, 28 February 2013

Ibbotson's proposal to dam the Clarence River does not impress

Hot on the heels of an unforgivably uninformed suggestion from NSW Governor Marie Bashir that Clarence River catchment freshwater be diverted into the Darling River system, the Northern Rivers now has this latest attempt to revive the dam debate.
Page One of the Ibbotson advertisement
Click on image to enlarge

On 22 February 2013 The Daily Examiner ran a four-page advertisement by former Murray-Darling Basin resident, self-styled Scientist (metallurgy & computing) - who also happens to be a US Heartland Institute endorsed climate change denying, enthusiastic supporter of damming and diverting the Clarence River to inland NSW – John Ibbotson of Gulmarrad.

Mr. Ibbotson has obviously decided that media reports of Australian Opposition Leader Tony Abbott’s ‘100 Dams’ draft document (which includes the Clarence and Mann rivers) gives him the opportunity to push his own dam plan once more.

This time the self-named Ibbo’s Dam still includes a hydro-electric scheme as part of the dam infrastructure, but is without the option to divert water into the Murray-Darling river systems.

However, Ibbotson happily suggests that placing a throttle on the flow regime of three major rivers (Clarence, Mann and Nymboida) by placing a dam at the top of the Clarence River Gorge (thereby also effectively destroying this gorge), permanently flooding the lower reaches of the Mann River, potentially compromising the last known wild population of Eastern (Freshwater) Cod, changing the water temperature in a section of the river below the proposed dam/hydro scheme, reducing annual inflows into the lower river and reducing the frequency of ‘freshes’ reaching the estuary (relied on by a local commercial fishing industry worth an estimated $92 million annually) are great ideas.

In this advertisement he fails to consider the impact his hydroelectric scheme would have on Essential Energy's existing hydroelectric plant on the Nymboida River or on existing tourism and farming businesses in the areas his scheme intends to flood.

Additionally, he entirely fails to explain how such a dam would help mitigate Clarence Valley flooding beyond wishfully asserting that it will.

This is a mock-up of a Clarence River dam posted on A Clarence Valley Protest in 2007:

This is the Clarence River Gorge in 2011:

And here are letters to the editor published in The Daily Examiner on 25 and 27 February 2013:

Ads are 'light relief'
On 18 September 2012 I had a letter to the editor published in The Daily Examiner on the subject of a "specific call to dam and divert water from the Clarence River catchment area" and "general calls to harvest water from east coast rivers for use in the Murray Darling Basin" in submissions before the NSW Legislative Council Standing Committee on State Development's Inquiry Into The Adequacy Of Water Storages in NSW.
On February 22, 2013 I was amused to find this letter selectively quoted in an expensive four-page advertisement created by that ardent climate change denier and supporter of damming and diverting freshwater from the Clarence River catchment into the Murray-Darling Basin, John Ibbotson (Senate Standing Committee of Regional Australia, Water Proofing the Murray-Darling Basin, Submission No. 158, dated received 7 December 2010).
I chortled when I discovered Mr Ibbotson obviously believed that I read transcripts with my ears and was impressed by the contortions involved in trying to make it appear that my letter ignored the subject of inter-basin water transfer.
I thank Mr Ibbotson for pointing out to Clarence Valley residents that the O'Farrell Government has no policy to protect the Clarence River from being dammed, even if at the inquiry's 20 August 2012 hearing it was demonstrated that David Harriss of the NSW Office of Water was not in favour of building expensive new dams:
"The Hon. Dr Peter Phelps: Is there any need for new dam building or simply perhaps raising storage capacities of the existing catchments?
Mr Harriss: I think the issues we have tried to raise in our submission are the billions of dollars invested in major infrastructure now, with both public infrastructure and on-farm infrastructure. I think (the) priority (for) New South Wales is to use that infrastructure as effectively and efficiently as possible in the first instance rather than investing further in up to millions of dollars in capital expenditure."
In the middle of all that wind and rain, Mr Ibbotson offered some welcome light relief and I'll gratefully use his advertisement to wrap my kitchen scraps later today.

No need for stirring
I am writing in response to John Ibbotson's 4 page "story" in the Examiner (22/02/13). I replied directly to his email (provided in the story), expressing my concern that his story was lacking figures of the dam capacity and flood flows to demonstrate how much a major flood could be minimised. I also expressed my environmental concerns.
John replied with, "I find that facts and figures in an article tend to result in people's eyes glazing over. This story was meant to be more of an emotive story..."
When reading his story, I found my own eyes "glazing over", as the "emotive" often tended to overshadow the substance. This issue has often been an emotional one, with people on both sides having strong opinions without many facts. The last thing it needs is another "emotional stirring" to cause people to feel they must be either for or against a dam. The issue needs an objective presentation of clear factual data addressing public concerns.
My concerns include the effects of the cold water releases on the ecosystem of the river below the dam, and all the way to the ocean.
John addressed environmental concerns in his story with "But it would ruin the river! I doubt it". Then he was sidetracked discussing Alaska and barbed wire.
With the help of Landcare, I had a flora and fauna survey conducted on our property (just below the Gorge), which demonstrated a diverse range of species including endangered and threatened species. John included a photo of one of our young cows with her vealer heifer calf in his story. He sarcastically referred to them as "rare native cowroos", attempting (I think?) to devalue the importance of the native wildlife, or to prove that the presence of cattle dramatically reduces the environmental value of the area?
Another concern is how a hydro-electric dam and a flood mitigation dam can operate at this site without being in conflict with each other. As locals know, we also have "dry periods'' where rain events contribute little to the river system. Electricity generation would require contracts to guarantee supply to the grid, and therefore need a minimum level in the dam to ensure this (and allow for dry weather). Calculations need to be made to show a flood event would not simply top the dam and flood anyway, like Wivenhoe dam did in 2011 in Brisbane. A dam could also turn floods into longer drawn out events, possibly impacting on lower areas (including Yamba) and beaches for longer. My great grandfather, Sir Earle Page, had detailed plans drawn up for a "Clarence river hydro-electric scheme" in the 1940s, but it calculated that many dams were needed to manage the flows and to guarantee supply.
"Heifer Station"

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