Locals fear Snowy 2.0 will threaten environmental water allocations

Posted 4 July 2018

Snowy RiverWith the expansion of the Snowy Hydro Scheme announced in March 2017, locals have been voicing concerns over the effect the multibillion dollar hydropower project will have on environmental health of the region.

Dubbed Snowy 2.0, the project aims to boost the energy generation of the scheme by 50%, but with more of the region’s water applied for hydro energy Dalgety residents are concerned their decades-long fight for the health of the Snowy River will fail. 

Snowy River Alliance Director Vicki Wallace told ABC Online that Dalgety residents are frustrated with the authorities’ water licence review process, with the alliance’s campaign for opening the Mowamba Weir continues to be overlooked.  

"It's a very dishonest perspective to be taken that the small tributary is too valuable to let it go naturally as the headwater for the Snowy River," she said.

"This issue of the [Mowamba Weir] has been investigated in the last three reviews, so why is it again still an issue up for discussion?"

Wallace said she will continue to pursue formal ways to object to the Snowy River's water use because she believes a healthier river would bring the region back to life.

"It can transform a community if they've got a good river running through their town … and there are more businesses that would like to come here if we had that guaranteed water."

Snowy River Alliance member and local business owner Julie Pearson said the 2018 review process continues to check facts without making any action. 

"They're reinvestigating science and the financial situation and that's all been done before and there's still no action," she said.

"It's really frustrating when you know that things can be improved here, but there's just not a political will to get ahead. Why is there another licence review going over the same old issues? And we're still waiting for something to be done."

Pearson said the river reached 21% of its original flow in October 2017 when a flushing flow was released from the Jindabyne Dam, but the flow still falls short of the 28% promised in the 2000s by the Victorian and NSW Governments. 

"Money seems to be splashed around the state but none of that money seems to be put back into the river, and that's where all that profit came from in the first place,” Pearson said. 

Snowy Hydro CEO Paul Broad said water releases from the Mowamba Weir into the Snowy River were only ever intended as a temporary arrangement designed to allow environmental flows to commence before completion of new outlet works at Jindabyne Dam.

"Since 2006, in accordance with the Snowy Water Licence, all Snowy River increased flows, with the exception of experimental releases at the request of the NSW Office of Water, have been made from Jindabyne Dam, and the Mowamba aqueduct was returned back to normal service diverting water back into Lake Jindabyne," he said.

"From 2015 to 2017, the company released water into the Mowamba River from the Mowamba Weir at the request of the NSW Office of Water … to allow scientific research into the merit of this tributary to the health of the Snowy River."

Snowy 2.0 will be the first major expansion for the scheme since it was built in 1974. The Federal Government says the expansion will add 2000MW of renewable energy to the National Electricity Market, enough to power 500,000 homes.
 
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