'We are pissed off': Dam wall's surprise lowering slammed
THE president of a North Burnett irrigation group says he is "pissed off” about the decision to release water from Paradise Dam in order to lower the spillway by 5m.
Minister for Natural Resources, Mines and Energy Dr Anthony Lynham announced the decision today in Bundaberg, citing safety concerns.
Paradise Dam was damaged during floods in 2011 and 2013.
Coalstoun Lakes Development Group's Steve Marshall claimed they had been told by North Burnett Regional Council that they had received a verbal undertaking to defer a decision on lowering Paradise Dam's spillway until the results of a $2 million Federal Government water infrastructure feasibility study announced in November 2018 were known.
Councillor Faye Whelan confirmed such a verbal undertaking was made.
The group has an ambitious plan to create a pipeline from Paradise Dam to the Tarong Pipeline, meaning water in the underutilised dam could be accessed by irrigators in the North and South Burnett.
Water from Paradise Dam could then be used for cooling Tarong Power Station, which would free up water at Boondooma Dam, which is currently sitting at just above 27 per cent capacity.
"We are pissed off about it,” Mr Marshall said.
"We have got the solution: give us the pipeline and we will take 66,000ML out of Paradise Dam for you, and you'd be getting paid, you wouldn't be giving it away for free.
"We are very disappointed they haven't waited for the (the study) to be finished.”
Mr Marshall acknowledged that "people's lives must take first priority”, and that the group's pipeline would still be feasible despite the lower capacity, but said it was "typical” of government there was no consultation.
"It was a surprise to everyone,” he said.
"I'm disappointed the council or someone else wasn't informed.”
North Burnett Regional Council Mayor Rachel Chambers announced via Facebook this morning she had been left "speechless” by the decision.
"Why weren't council informed?” she asked.
Cr Chambers said she and other councillors found out about the decision via the Bundaberg News-Mail, which broke the story this morning.
She said the council "understand(s) that dam safety is paramount”.
Cr Chambers and a North Burnett councillor will sit in on a community reference group which will be established, she said.
Cr Chambers declined to comment when contacted by the Times.
Paradise Dam is at 75 per cent of its 300,560ML capacity.
Sunwater released a statement which revealed releases had started to lower the dam's water storage level to 42 per cent.
"While the dam is safe under normal and current forecast weather conditions, detailed investigations have shown that there are issues with the dam in the unlikely event of another 1-in-200-year event like 2013,” the release said.
"Reducing the dam's storage level will facilitate essential work to lower the spillway wall in 2020 and allow for better community safety management.
"The water being released from the dam ahead of the 2019-20 wet season will not disrupt water supply to Bundaberg.
"Customers have been notified of the releases and opportunities to access unsold water being released at no charge.”
Dr Lynham was contacted for comment.