WaterNSW, on engagement by The Department of Planning, Industry and Environment, is exploring options for a new gated weir and fishway structure in the Macquarie River. Our aim is to improve the efficiency of water delivery, enhance the long-term water security for the valley and protect the ecology of this vital river system.
Firstly, I'd like to address environmental concerns recently raised.
The Macquarie River Re-regulating Storage Project has been classified as a State Significant Infrastructure project, which means WaterNSW must produce an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
The EIS process - which includes studies into cultural heritage sites, water quality and biodiversity - is hugely important and gives us the opportunity to understand any potential impacts on the environmental and then work towards mitigating those and ensuring the ongoing health of the river and the fish that use it.
Secondly, I want to make clear that the proposed gated weir is not a dam, and will function in a similar manner to dozens of WaterNSW weirs across regional NSW, including the Macquarie valley.
The aim of the weir is to catch water deliveries released from Burrendong Dam that are subsequently cancelled by the customer generally because rainfall has meant the customer no longer requires the water. Currently, when this occurs the water flows through to the end of the system.
Capturing the water for future delivery - rather than it flowing to the end of the system - will reduce the total amount of water we need to release from Burrendong to fulfil current allocations to towns, farms, irrigators and the environment.
Not only will the weir not stop tributary flows downstream of Burrendong Dam forging its natural course down the river system, but it will increase general security water allocations - 40 percent of which are directed to environmental flow. Meaning more water allocations for the environment.
As outlined in WaterNSW Operational Plan for 2019/20, an environmental water allowance has been established for environmental purposes downstream of Burrendong Dam and is released as specified in the Macquarie Water Sharing Plan (WSP) to improve environmental outcomes in the Macquarie Marshes and Macquarie River between Burrendong Dam and the Macquarie Marshes - the proposed new weir would not affect these environmental flows reaching the Marshes.
From July 2019, we have been engaging with stakeholders, including representatives from local government, Local Aboriginal Land Councils and federal and state government agencies, as well as directly impacted landowners and a number of community, environmental, angler and recreational groups.
As it stands, we are still gathering information as part of the final business case so we can make the most informed decisions on how to proceed with this important project. A flourishing river system, fish health and operating efficiency will be at the forefront of our mind.
We will continue our engagement with stakeholders and the broader community over the coming months, and the feedback we receive will play a very important role in shaping the Macquarie River Re-regulating Storage project.
David Harris is the CEO of WaterNSW
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