World Heritage Listed Blue Mountains threatened by dam plan

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World Heritage Listed Blue Mountains threatened by dam plan

Postby FatCanyoner » Mon 01 Apr, 2013 4:22 pm

G'day folks,

I'm usually more focused on fun, frivolity and maximising my "bush time", but this is a really serious issue that I'm sure will worry a lot of bushwalkers.

Thousands of hectares of pristine bushland in the World Heritage Listed Greater Blue Mountains are at risk from resurrected plans to raise Warragamba Dam by 23m. The plan, which would cost at least half a billion dollars, would result in huge areas along about 70kms of wild rivers being regularly inundated -- often for a month at a time -- to mitigate floods downstream. The result of this would be thousands of hectares of wilderness being killed, river banks being eroded, increased siltation, weed invasion etc. The inundated areas cover more than half of the remaining habitat of the Camden White Gum, which is just one of the many rare, threatened and endangered species that would suffer because of this proposal.

There is currently a community campaign getting kicked off on the issue. Over the next week or two they will be launching a website, and facebook page. You can already read more about the issue, and send a letter to the NSW Premier, from the Colong Committee website (http://www.colongwilderness.org.au/dont-raise-dam). I will be posting updates and links to the campaign here.

I've also written a blog post on the topic, trying to explain my concerns, why I am getting involved with this group, and why should consider supporting them too (http://fatcanyoners.org/2013/04/01/wild ... -dam-plan/)

It is outrageous that some of the most ecologically significant areas in Australia, that have not only been recognised as wilderness here, but also internationally, are again coming under threat. There are other alternatives for flood mitigation and management that can be just as effective and would not involve destroying our environmental heritage.

And if you want to see some of what is threatened, check out Dave Nobles images of the Kowmung (http://www.david-noble.net/BlueMts/Kowmung/Kowmung.html)
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Re: World Heritage Listed Blue Mountains threatened by dam p

Postby Pongo » Mon 01 Apr, 2013 4:56 pm

What's the point of being world heritage listed if you can pull this nonsense?

Sigh, at the rate things are going...
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Re: World Heritage Listed Blue Mountains threatened by dam p

Postby wayno » Mon 01 Apr, 2013 5:27 pm

i think the only effective power over world heritage sites that become over developed is they can loose their status....
the only thing that stopped the nz govt from mining in south westland world heritage site in the end was public opposition, they are still going ahead on the denniston plateau.
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Re: World Heritage Listed Blue Mountains threatened by dam p

Postby FatCanyoner » Mon 01 Apr, 2013 8:27 pm

Pongo wrote:What's the point of being world heritage listed if you can pull this nonsense?


Yeah, it's extraordinary isn't it. Apparently this land is among the most protected in the country (World Heritage Listed, National Park, declared wilderness, etc), yet this proposal is still on the table. It goes to show that nothing is off limits!

wayno wrote:the only thing that stopped the nz govt from mining in south westland world heritage site in the end was public opposition


Wayno, I think you're spot on. Hopefully if we can raise enough awareness and put enough pressure on the NSW Government they'll reject this idea before it even gets off the ground. Better to try and kill it now rather than once they've invested millions into planning etc!
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Re: World Heritage Listed Blue Mountains threatened by dam p

Postby clarence » Mon 01 Apr, 2013 8:43 pm

Reminiscent of the campaign to raise Tallowa Dam on the Shoalhaven River in about 2004 by the Carr Labor Government.

The Tallowa dam proposal (of around 11 metres increased height) was potentially going to affect NSW's oldest declared Wilderness Area (Ettrema). The Warragamba proposal appears far more ugly in comparison.

A relatively small and dedicated group (including myself) campaigned vigorously on the Tallowa Dam proposal, which was eventually shelved.

It is utter hypocrisy for National Parks, State Conservation Areas, Wilderness Areas and World Heritage Areas to be declared, only to effectively be reversed by proposed developments such as this. At last check there was no precedent for this type of "development" in Wilderness Areas in NSW.

If a Labor government led by "bushwalking Bob" Carr was capable of putting forward the Tallowa Dam proposal, I would be very concerned over what the current Liberal State government is capable of. Yes Pongo, they will pull this type of nonsense if the public lay down and cop it.

These proposals will not go away without fierce opposition from the community. Unfortunately, the media and public at large have little interest in areas such as this, as they do not have much "wow factor" compared to Tasmania, the Kimberley, Daintree etc.

Get out and visit these areas, upload your photos and trip reports and spread the word. If you haven't been to these places before, put it on top of your bushwalking to-do list.

I believe that strongly encouraging people to visit "at risk" areas such as this (irrespective of whether they are untracked, wilderness, pristine etc) is absolutely critical in raising awareness, which will hopefully result in their long term conservation.

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Re: World Heritage Listed Blue Mountains threatened by dam p

Postby DaveNoble » Wed 03 Apr, 2013 10:22 pm

Some recent photos of the lower Kowmung River - this beautiful part of the river will be destroyed if the plans go ahead -

http://www.david-noble.net/BlueMts/Lowe ... River.html

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Re: World Heritage Listed Blue Mountains threatened by dam p

Postby FatCanyoner » Thu 04 Apr, 2013 6:18 am

DaveNoble wrote:Some recent photos of the lower Kowmung River


Absolutely spectacular photos Dave!

They provide such wonderful visual evidence for why this is such an important issue.
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Re: World Heritage Listed Blue Mountains threatened by dam p

Postby wayno » Thu 04 Apr, 2013 6:23 am

beautiful photos.
unfortunately the govt won't give a stuff how nice the area looks... it will be up to individuals to protest and try and stop further development...
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Re: World Heritage Listed Blue Mountains threatened by dam p

Postby Hallu » Thu 04 Apr, 2013 11:14 am

So this is just to prevent flooding downstream where people lived if I understand correctly ? Well how about not living where river floods, or taking the necessary precautions ?

Regarding the Word Heritage status, it doesn't protect anything. It is just some kind of reward, and although it helps raise public awareness, it's got no legal protective status since it's international. Only the National Park status from the concerned country protects the area, and that status is very weak in Australia, as I've said it countless times. In Australia, NPs borders can be modified easily, for example to allow mining (such as in Kakadu, again a World Heritage site). It's also counter intuitive that in Australia anything can be turned into a NP : an artificial lake area can be an NP, such as Lake Eildon in Victoria. A small area with high voltage power lines can be turned into one, such as Churchill NP. This means there are too many NPs in Australia, where you can do pretty much anything.

Until the Australian NP status becomes strong, unified and sacred (as in : no mining, no logging, no dam, no motor sports, no hunting, no people living in it, and managed by the nation and not the states under a common legislature), projects like this one will keep showing up.
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Re: World Heritage Listed Blue Mountains threatened by dam p

Postby colinm » Thu 04 Apr, 2013 2:21 pm

Oh! I thought ... posted Apr 1st ... this was an April Fool's joke. Not?
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Re: World Heritage Listed Blue Mountains threatened by dam p

Postby FatCanyoner » Thu 04 Apr, 2013 2:56 pm

colinm wrote:Oh! I thought ... posted Apr 1st ... this was an April Fool's joke.


Unfortunately not. It seems more and more government policy is more closely aligned to a bad joke than to good politics!

Hallu wrote:So this is just to prevent flooding downstream where people lived if I understand correctly ? Well how about not living where river floods, or taking the necessary precautions ?


Absolutely. The whole focus of the plan is about reducing downstream flooding. Not only is this about existing residents, it is about opening up huge tracts of land to development. If this plan goes through it will allow tens of thousands more people to live on the floodplain!

Hallu wrote:Until the Australian NP status becomes strong, unified and sacred (as in : no mining, no logging, no dam, no motor sports, no hunting, no people living in it, and managed by the nation and not the states under a common legislature), projects like this one will keep showing up.


I think you are right. Even under a federal system we risk a future federal government watering down the protection. There really does need to be some serious thinking about how best to cement the protections these areas have. Part of that I think is about maximising how many people know what is there, why it is important, and why they should actively work to protect it. As they say, if you don't fight for it, you'll lose it.
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Re: World Heritage Listed Blue Mountains threatened by dam p

Postby Hallu » Thu 04 Apr, 2013 3:30 pm

The thing is, in Australia, it's never a rich or a politically influent person that wants to save a particular area. In the US, you had great people such as Theodore Roosevelt, later president and great user of the Antiquities Act (something that could NEVER pass in Australia...), John D. Rockefeller Jr., who purchased and donated huge parcels of land to the Federal Government, knowing it would be well taken care of, Stephen Mather who spent a fortune managing the National Park Service, or Jimmy Carter, who saved the Alaskan wilderness with just one signature (against the will of all the state of Alaska, who wanted oil, hunting and mines...), partly costing him his reelection. Where are the equivalent of those people in Australia ? Have you ever seen a bold move by the government to save a parcel of land against mining/logging/hunting organizations' opinions ? And even if rich people bought and donated land to the government, it wouldn't even be taken care of, they could turn it into mine or logging parcels years later... A strong NP status and strong enforcement of its laws is the FIRST thing you need on the road to effective conservation. Australia doesn't even have that. It only relies on people to fight against stupid projects instead of relying on the law...

What amazes me is on one end you have countless projects to save endangered species of animals and plants, a strong conservation spirit amongst a majority of the people, a huge number of NPs, and on the other end, you have constant nonsense such as States managing the NPs (I don't know of any other country doing this), hunting and mining in NPs, modification of the boundaries, old grazing/farming parcels turned into NPs (especially in outback NSW) etc... If Australia looks clean and wild from a distance, it's only because there are too few people to destroy it. In the US they almost destroyed the Estern half of their country before realizing they should at least do something to save the Western half. It's like here in Oz, disaster hasn't struck deep enough for us to have strong large scale conservation laws and projects. You can tell conservation is strong in a country when you see parcels of land protected even though they have great economical potential for natural resources. So far in Australia, this economical potential always trumps conservation. A country that is pretty much similar is Canada : their diamond mines and bituminous sands are exploited without any regard for conservation in the area. It's still wild and untouched in most of the country because there are only 33 millions Canadians.
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Re: World Heritage Listed Blue Mountains threatened by dam p

Postby geoskid » Thu 04 Apr, 2013 8:02 pm

Hiya FC - can you please provide links to the facts about this issue. What is the problem that needs mitigating? What is the complete range of solutions suggested to address the problem. Where is the environmental analysis for all of the alternatives.
Without this someone might come to the false conclusion that your interest begins and ends with the fact that where you like to walk might be affected. We can't have that.
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Re: World Heritage Listed Blue Mountains threatened by dam p

Postby doogs » Thu 04 Apr, 2013 8:18 pm

Geez the mainland is sooo far behind Tasmania, we destroyed our wilderness areas with dams decades ago...
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Re: World Heritage Listed Blue Mountains threatened by dam p

Postby Hallu » Thu 04 Apr, 2013 8:23 pm

Tasmania is doing fine in that department compared to Europe. EU's saturated with dams. But their dams are different than the one we're talking about. They're for electricity or in some rare cases water distribution. This one in the blue mountains is just to protect some people who should have known better (or should have been informed by the NSW government) than to build on a flooding risk area.
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Re: World Heritage Listed Blue Mountains threatened by dam p

Postby FatCanyoner » Thu 04 Apr, 2013 8:40 pm

geoskid wrote:Hiya FC - can you please provide links to the facts about this issue...


Geoskid, not sure if you actually clicked through to the blog post, but there are at least six links included which will provide you with more info.

Two that I'd recommend you try clicking would be the Infrastructure NSW document (their 20 year plan for the state) that has put the dam raising back on the agenda: http://www.infrastructure.nsw.gov.au/st ... ategy.aspx (the water specific section is here: http://www.infrastructure.nsw.gov.au/me ... _print.pdf)

The other area that covers off a whole lot more detail are the fact sheets on the Colong Committee website: http://www.colongwilderness.org.au/dont-raise-dam

Do I need to make the links stand out more on the blog post? Or as I suspect did you simply not click through that far and instead just decided to have a dig...
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Re: World Heritage Listed Blue Mountains threatened by dam p

Postby geoskid » Thu 04 Apr, 2013 9:00 pm

FatCanyoner wrote:
geoskid wrote:Hiya FC - can you please provide links to the facts about this issue...


Geoskid, not sure if you actually clicked through to the blog post, but there are at least six links included which will provide you with more info.

Two that I'd recommend you try clicking would be the Infrastructure NSW document (their 20 year plan for the state) that has put the dam raising back on the agenda: http://www.infrastructure.nsw.gov.au/st ... ategy.aspx (the water specific section is here: http://www.infrastructure.nsw.gov.au/me ... _print.pdf)

The other area that covers off a whole lot more detail are the fact sheets on the Colong Committee website: http://www.colongwilderness.org.au/dont-raise-dam

Do I need to make the links stand out more on the blog post? Or as I suspect did you simply not click through that far and instead just decided to have a dig...

FC, Please. The relevant links to be able to gain a balanced view of the issue should be in the op. You know this and no doubt would expect this of an issue that was'nt close to you.
A Dig? You know what pisses me off most, is people that want to change the world without changing the rules.
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Re: World Heritage Listed Blue Mountains threatened by dam p

Postby FatCanyoner » Thu 04 Apr, 2013 9:11 pm

geoskid wrote:The relevant links to be able to gain a balanced view of the issue should be in the op.


Sure, I could have cut and pasted the entire blog post I'd written on the topic -- including all links -- but I figured I'd simply give a short summary here so as not to overwhelm people. That way people could get a taster, and the smaller number of people with a genuine interest could read more as desired.
By clicking through to the full post you'd have found links to: 1) the Infrastructure NSW document, 2) the statements that have been made by key politicians, and 3) some commentary from experts for and against the proposal. I included all of those, not because they necessarily make my case, but because I want people to have the chance to be informed and make up their own minds.
What annoys me is lazy people who get on their high horse because clicking a link or reading an article seem like too much work... (although strangely these same people are never short on time for snarky messages...)
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Re: World Heritage Listed Blue Mountains threatened by dam p

Postby Hallu » Thu 04 Apr, 2013 9:43 pm

You need to calm down Geoskid... You started aggressively and now you keep escalating. And yet you still haven't given your opinion on the matter...
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Re: World Heritage Listed Blue Mountains threatened by dam p

Postby Strider » Thu 04 Apr, 2013 9:51 pm

Hallu wrote:You need to calm down Geoskid... You started aggressively and now you keep escalating. And yet you still haven't given your opinion on the matter...

It seems he is trying to obtain more detailed information, so that he can form an objective opinion that includes all the facts.
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Re: World Heritage Listed Blue Mountains threatened by dam p

Postby Hallu » Thu 04 Apr, 2013 9:55 pm

The information is there, it seems he's just trying to start an argument without giving his own.
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Re: World Heritage Listed Blue Mountains threatened by dam p

Postby clarence » Fri 05 Apr, 2013 7:55 am

It is important to discuss the issue rather than attack other contributors generally, as this is a significant issue for many reasons. I think FC has done an important job in bringing this to the attention of the forum users.

For those not familiar with the issue, please read the comprehensive links provided.

Irrespective of the recreational impacts, there are many huge negatives around this proposal in my opinion.

One of the best plans of action for anyone in doubt is to go to some of these areas and have a closer look first hand.

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Re: World Heritage Listed Blue Mountains threatened by dam p

Postby Nuts » Fri 05 Apr, 2013 8:34 am

I don't think WHA and park boundaries matter much, they can be arbitrary, aligned around old tenures or set without much realism or foresight. I'm sure to follow the links would lead to the facts, its a shame that facts can be summarised but then the slant is obvious through the reading ie. to finish with (eg) the cartoon on the Colong link (or even the initial link to Daves photo's). It kinda narrows the field to preaching to the converted when opinion is mixed with fact?

That said, it doesn't seem to contribute much unless those that bother to post actually do try to understand issues and alternatives before jumping the gun. It doesn't take much imagination to find questions if not answers. There is also no rule on such postings, forum members aren't expected to have journalism majors, follow a posting format or try to contain their passion. Members here are just expected to keep things polite and friendly..
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Re: World Heritage Listed Blue Mountains threatened by dam p

Postby FatCanyoner » Sun 07 Apr, 2013 10:09 am

clarence wrote:One of the best plans of action for anyone in doubt is to go to some of these areas and have a closer look first hand.


Totally agree. We live in an anthropocentric society, where wilderness is often only valued if it is considered of benefit to people. As bushwalkers we get to enjoy these areas all the time. The more people we can take with us, or show photos / tell stories to, the more people will value these places, and the more protected our society will make them.

I'd be very surprised if there is anyone, not just on this forum, who has walked the lower Kowmung and thinks flooding it is a good idea. If you're undecided, why don't you plan a trip there yourself and make up your own mind?

And as Hallo pointed out, the only winners in this plan are people who knowingly chose to live on a flood plain, and those who want to make money developing more houses on the floodplain. To me that just seems like madness, but I'm more than happy to hear alternate points of view.
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Re: World Heritage Listed Blue Mountains threatened by dam p

Postby Hallu » Sun 07 Apr, 2013 11:31 am

Building on parcels that may be flooded and lead to disaster is a common problem in France. Landowners ignore safety rules, safety regulators turn a blind eye or don't want to be bothered once the houses are built, and once a flood hits and kills people, tenants are dumbfounded ("nobody told us"). But here in a huge sparsely populated place such as Australia why building on flood plains when you have all the space in the world to build on safe ground...
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Re: World Heritage Listed Blue Mountains threatened by dam p

Postby taswegian » Sun 07 Apr, 2013 1:45 pm

Traditionally we have settled the low land because it's adjacent to the only/ main form of transport.
We're 100+ years past that and are suffering under the weight of traditions carried forward, perpetuated even to the point of it being trendy, socially acceptable to live in these areas.
Recent flood events amply demonstrate that one doesn't just suffer from living on flood plains or adjacent to rivers and streams, but also in overland flow paths that building of dams or other structures would not prevent the catastrophes we have sadly seen in recent years.
Here in Tasmania any development has to take these flow paths into account.

Whilst many acknowledge climate change is all around us, the responses from those in authority are so mixed and often unrealistic or way offbeat. Complete overkill to the point of being plain useless in some circumstances.

I don't have answers but we need some hard decisions that will only help prevent future losses.
Unfortunately relocation is often the last resort when maybe it should be the first and wisest response.
The land is not lost to use, just a change in use.
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Re: World Heritage Listed Blue Mountains threatened by dam p

Postby stepbystep » Sun 07 Apr, 2013 3:33 pm

FatCanyoner wrote:We live in an anthropocentric society, where wilderness is often only valued if it is considered of benefit to people.


Excellent word and an important point you make, this sentence is the central theme for a documentary I'm trying to make, unfortunately broadcasters don't see the value in it :?
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Re: World Heritage Listed Blue Mountains threatened by dam p

Postby taswegian » Sun 07 Apr, 2013 3:49 pm

SBS it's one of those areas that has hidden benefits, not immediately evident, too emotive, and one we can't easily quantify in accounting or scientific terms.
And when "it's" not there, gone, then still not missed because it wasn't obvious in the first place.

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Plans to raise Warragamba Dam

Postby Solohike74 » Sun 28 Apr, 2013 3:19 pm

There is a live proposal at State & Fed level to raise the dam wall at Warragamba by almost 25m. This will inundated wild riparian areas for over 100km on rivers such as the Coxs, Kedumba & numerous smaller tributaries.

Head over to the Colong Foundation page to join the action.
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Re: Plans to raise Warragamba Dam

Postby clarence » Mon 29 Apr, 2013 6:14 am

Thanks Solohike,

There has been a thread started on this in "bushwalking discussion" by Fatcanyoner and several links have been put up for those who are interested. I don't know how to paste in the links other than:

http://www.bushwalk.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=12963

The proposal looks like an environmental disaster in my opinion.

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