Macquarie community rallies for the River.

No New Weir. Don’t Damn The Macquarie.

Healthy Rivers Dubbo has launched a community powered campaign featuring television, radio and newspaper advertisements to highlight concerns about plans to dam the Wambuul Macquarie River at Gin Gin, between Narromine and Warren.

Next month the Detailed Business Case for the proposed ‘Macquarie River re-regulating storage’ is due to be submitted, although there is no indication that the public will get the opportunity to see it. We know the cost of the project is over $30 million because of its classification, but the actual forecast cost is being kept from the public, and is expected to be a lot higher.

Don't Damn the Macquarie Ad - final

It’s time now for the NSW Government to change their plans. Don’t dam the Macquarie with a monstrous gated weir, instead rebuild the old Gin Gin weir at the same height, with a fishway.

Coral Peckham, Tubba-Gah Maing Wiradjuri,

“We’re concerned about our sacred sites along the river, and our aquatic flora and fauna. They all need water. Our aims and objectives are to look after Country for future generations.”

Sandra Peckham, Wiradjuri Bogan River People:

“No dam. If this dam goes ahead and a heritage site is destroyed, it will be just like what Rio Tinto did in WA, knowingly destroying cultural sites. “

Garry Hall, Grazier, Macquarie Marshes:

“Roy Butler has the opportunity now to stand up and represent the people of Barwon. This dam will be a disaster for communities, downstream graziers and unregulated irrigators in his electorate. We are the people who voted Roy in, and we need to know he is standing with us now.

“Preferred alternatives to improve water security would include the NSW Government changing its credit policy of allocating water that hasn’t fallen as rain in the catchment.

“The Ramsar listed Macquarie Marshes being in the seat of Barwon means Roy Butler must work hard to ensure the NSW Government meets its obligations as the manager of the internationally significant wetlands. How will those obligations be met when this project will mean a loss of important natural inflows to the Marshes every year?

“Reduced flows in the Macquarie below Gin Gin will mean the Marshes will be drier more often, and it will be even harder to connect the Macquarie and Barwon Rivers, which is crucial for native fish migration and the health of the Darling River.”

Mel Gray, Healthy Rivers Dubbo:

“Dugald Saunders has a choice to make. Will he listen to the community, or allow the river to be turned into an irrigation delivery channel that supports only a privileged few?

It’s time for Dugald to stop the haemorrhaging of public funds being used to design a project that will harm the river, wildlife, the Macquarie Marshes and downstream farmers and communities. Change the plans now – rebuild the old weir, don’t damn the Macquarie.”

David Harris, Project Manager River Repair Bus, Dubbo:

“Bit by bit we are changing the river and making it harder for native fish to survive. This dam will destroy habitat for Murray Cod, Trout Cod, Silver Perch and other species for a 30km stretch, and that includes drowning beautiful old River Red Gums that are hundreds of years old and cannot be replaced.”

“This dam would make a mockery of the many long hours invested by the community in repairing the habitat of the Macquarie River for native fish.”

Neal Harris, Western Paddlers NSW, Mudgee:

“As recreational paddlers, members of Western Paddlers NSW love paddling on the Macquarie River and the Macquarie Marshes. River paddlers seek out natural waterways, and more dams means we’re losing more and more of our wild rivers.

Thirty kilometres of still water, with no vegetation, poor water quality and reinforced banks is not what our paddlers expect or want to experience on the Macquarie, and we would regarded that section of the river a no go zone for paddling.”

Debit water accounts, rather than destroy the river.

Since 2014, WaterNSW have had a protocol in the Macquarie-Cudgegong Valley where if a water ordering customer has a history of cancelling water orders after they’ve been released from the dam, their water account can be debited by the volume of water they order, not the volume they pump.

To date, this protocol hasn’t been applied, rather water customers who habitually order more water than they need are only debited the volume of water they pump.

The capture of rainfall rejection orders is the main reason being put forward for the construction of the enormous in channel dam at Gin Gin.

Why should the public be asked to foot the large bill of over $30 million for a massive gated structure that will dam the river for 30 km, destroying Red Gums and making the river uninhabitable for native fish? 

This dam would withhold water from the internationally recognised Ramsar listed Macquarie Marshes, put the town of Warren at higher risk of running out of water, deny natural tributary inflows to the creeks and the Lower Macquarie and make connection between the Macquarie and Barwon Rivers even harder to achieve.

If water customers have a habit of ordering more water than they extract, then why doesn’t WaterNSW use the protocol and debit their accounts?

Water Order Debiting Macquarie Cudgegong

Your Say was heard! – Marshes and water birds to be considered in Macquarie dam EIS

** Impacts to the Ramsar listed Macquarie Marshes and migratory birds to be recognised as significant in Environmental Impact Statement! **

Public comment was recently invited on the EPBC Act referral for the Macquarie River re-regulating weir – which is a proposal to build another dam on the Macquarie River upstream from the Ramsar listed Macquarie Marshes.

This document will inform the Environmental Impact Statement for the project. WaterNSW prepared the referral, for the consideration of the federal environment department. In their proposal, WaterNSW considered that the impact of the new dam on the Macquarie Marshes and on migratory birds would not be significant.

Many of you prepared submissions, and disagreed with WaterNSW, instead identifying many ways that the dam would in fact have very significant impacts on the wetlands and the migratory birds that rely on them.

** YOU WERE HEARD! **

The environmental impact statement will now look closely at the significant impact the dam would have on the Macquarie Marshes and migratory birds.

Approved Referral

An alternative to the dam proposal was presented in the referral, that the current Gin Gin weir be replaced where it is – without the capability of creating a new dam. Any new structure would also have to incorporate a fishway. This would be a great outcome for the Wambuul Macquarie River!

 

The referral 2020-8652 – referral_Final produced by WaterNSW identified a lot of significant impacts that the dam is expected to have. Here’s a quick summary:

  • Reduced inflows into the Macquarie Marshes – small flows in dry years are critical to the Marshes.
  • 30km of river banks vegetation would be drowned.
  • Loss of habitat types such as riffle zones due to flooding and decreased water quality.
  • Loss of aquatic and river bank habitat for 30km.
  • Loss of snag habitat and spawning sites for vulnerable Murray Cod.
  • Native fish eggs would sink in the still water and die on the bottom of the river.
  • Fish in the area would have limited movement, even with the fishway, which is not enough to counteract the loss of habitat.
  • Loss of flowing river habitat.
  • The river banks will degrade and erode, land most likely will have to be lined with rocks for 30km – creating a sterile lifeless in channel dam.
  • Impacts to the groundwater recharge and groundwater dependent ecosystems.
  • Threats to native fish listed under the Fisheries Management Act – Eel-tailed catfish, Olive Perchlet Southern Spotted Purple Gudgeon, Silver Perch, Trout Cod as well as Murray Cod.
  • A registered Aboriginal heritage site will be inundated by the resulting weir pool.

 

It’s a dribble.

The Chair of Macquarie Food and Fibre, Tony Quigley spoke on ABC Central West Radio on Monday 11th May about the planned re-regulating weir at Gin Gin.

Tony explains (in his own words) that the giant structure will mean a loss to the environment and communities downstream of Gin Gin of the significant volume of 25 billion litres a year.

“… as irrigators we think there’s a real need for it, we think there is probably 25,000 megs a year that can be saved in the system that’s currently lost out the bottom to no real gain to the Marshes It’s a dribble all through the summer irrigation season. “

 

Drought of Record & the Macquarie Valley

Drought of Record defines the period when inflows into each catchment were at their historic lowest. The NSW Government uses the Drought of Record inflows to work out how much water can be extracted from the rivers in the year ahead, by coming up with an Available Water Determination.

In the case of several NSW rivers, including the Macquarie River, the Drought of Record is only based on the years before July 2004. That means that in future years, the current shocking drought will not be considered when the Government comes up with the Available Water Determination. Water managers will continue to assume Burrendong dam will fill every two years.

Truth Pie

Until the rains came in early 2020, the Macquarie River was on track to stop flowing at Burrendong dam by October 2020, in what would have been an environmental, economic and social catastrophe.

Capping the Drought of Record to pre-2004 volumes was the doing of then NSW Water Minister Kevin Humphries in 2014. Listen as Mr Humphries explains that saving water ‘just in case’ there is another big drought would reduce general security license allocations by between 8 and 20%.

Kevin Humpries explains capping the Drought of Record

Current NSW Water Minister Pavey reinforced the Government’s priorities in Parliament in November 2019 where she said:

To include a rule that automatically requires the water supply system to adjust to new record drought would potentially result in significant quantities of water being locked away from productive use.”

The NSW upper house passed a motion last week (SMH H.Alexander&P.Hannam 19/5/20) calling on Water Minister Melinda Pavey to use up to date drought figures before submitting the water resource plans to the Murray-Darling Basin Authority for accreditation.

[Quoting from the article] Independent MP Justin Field, who moved the motion, said the National Party had explicitly removed the 2001-2009 Millenium Drought from consideration in the 2014 water-sharing plans .. “That left regional towns facing running out of water, rivers starved and massive additional stresses in agricultural and river communities,” Mr Field said.”Now is the opportunity to fix these plans before this failed model is locked in for another decade risking future water shortages.”

Mr Field’s motion was supported by Labor, Greens, One Nation and Shooters, Fishers and Farmers MPs.

Dubbo mayor Ben Shields said the irrigation lobby had unduly influenced water policy and town supply was becoming a concern for the first time. Burrendong Dam dropped to 2 per cent capacity before recent rains pushed the level to 21 per cent.

“These sort of droughts are only going to get worse and the lack of water is only going to get worse,” Mr Shields said.

 

image: Macquarie River 22km downstream of Warren November 2019

Parched marshlands in danger due to water shortages

Daily Liberal Daniel Sharkie 15/5/20

Mel Gray, a representative of the Healthy Rivers Dubbo group has called on the state government to make changes to their current involvement in the Murray-Darling basin plan in order to avoid passing beyond a ‘tipping point’ with regards to the river system.

“We’re going to need tighter rules in our water sharing plan that protect those vital first flows,” Ms Gray said.

“We’re facing a future where water is going to be more scarce than ever before in the Macquarie valley, there was a report by the state government in 2013 that told us we would have 30 percent less potable water by 2030, and unfortunately, those predictions seem to be an underestimation.”

While the group have criticised the recent proposal to create a re-regulating weir between Narromine and Warren in recent weeks, they also remain opposed to what they consider high rates of water extraction from the system.

“This is how we got into the situation that we’re in now in the first place,” Ms Gray said.

Ms Gray says that maintaining the current rate of extraction, and committing to the weir, will exacerbate the current situation and cause possibly fatal damage to the Macquarie marsh lands ecosystem.

“It’s not a good idea to extract further water from an already stressed system,” Ms Gray said.

Member for Dubbo, Dugald Saunders said that ensuring the environmental health of the Murray-Darling basin remained the goal of the government’s participation in the Murray-Darling plan.

“For my part I will continue to work with all water users and interests, including recreational users, in the Dubbo electorate to find the best balance in ensuring the river habitat is sustained while commercial agricultural producers are given the opportunity to generate income and jobs for this region,” Mr Saunders said.

He welcomed the recent wet weather as a possible salve.

“The extreme drought of the past three years has impacted on the availability of water for all users including the environment generally, and the marshes specifically,” Mr Saunders said.

“Like all residents of this region I hope the recent return to wetter weather continues to put water into the dam and brings widespread benefit to the environment, farming families and our local communities.”