The proposed Emu Swamp Dam site. Photo Emma Boughen / The Bush Telegraph
The proposed Emu Swamp Dam site. Photo Emma Boughen / The Bush Telegraph Emma Boughen

Cost of dam has council worried

"GREEN" tape and expensive environmental measures have blown the cost of the Emu Swamp Dam out of the water, and the council is concerned about funding the project.

Engineering Services director Peter See has told councillors as much as $5million was needed from council immediately to get the project started.

"There is no money in this year's budget for the Emu Swamp Dam," he said.

"We may potentially have to rob from the capital works program - we might have to park other capital works to fund this project."

Councillors were briefed at a meeting last week by representatives from engineering consultants Jacobs on the ins and outs of the project, which is now expected to cost as much as $100million - with no indication of where exactly the money will come from.

Lex Appelgren from Jacobs warned the council there were some significant hurdles they would need to jump.

"Some offsets are bigger than we expected," he said.

"Environment offsets are expected to blow out - we're talking a couple of million extra."

Environmental offsets, including a passage for the Bell's Turtle and another for fish species, are expected to cost millions of dollars - with federal approval needed for both designs before construction on the dam can begin.

Jacobs senior environmental engineer Niall Carey told the council the fish transfer alone, which would allow fish to safely travel from the dam to rivers downstream, could cost $1-$2million.

He said there was a fair bit of concern about the impact the dam would have on the Bell's Turtle at state and national level.

"We've been instructed that the passage must be designed by a qualified professional and approved by the minister before construction," he said.

All eyes are now on the early stages of the first major step for the council - the Community Infrastructure Designation.

Mr See told the council work needed to begin on the CID immediately.

"As soon as we can, we need to appoint a project manager within council," he said.

"Building a dam wall is way beyond the ability of anyone within council."

Councillors raised their concerns at how quickly the cost of the dam could spiral out of control, with the CID process including the acquisition of land in the inundation area.

"Very quickly we could end up spending $3.5million on land acquisitions," Mr See said.

"We need to begin this process."

The council has made 109 commitments to the dam project, stemming from the 50 conditions of approval set at state and federal level.

While federal approval for the Emu Swamp Dam is expected in mid-November, the council has been given a list of other approvals that would be needed during the consultation and construction processes.

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