NEW PLAN: SDRC will undertake their own study to determine the best path forward for water security.
NEW PLAN: SDRC will undertake their own study to determine the best path forward for water security. File

Another twist in dam water saga

THE ongoing saga that is water security responsibility in Southern Downs has taken yet another twist.

The Southern Downs Regional Council is set to push ahead with a new study after councillors debated the topic for roughly an hour at November 22's meeting.

In October, the Federal Government seized $3.52 million of a previously granted sum of $3.97 million back from SDRC to provide a new proponent with the funds to investigate water security. Former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce intervened in the situation as he felt the money needed to focus on one option - Emu Swamp.

The council had essentially taken that proposal off the table, leading to Mr Joyce plucking back funds and supporting the Stanthorpe and Granite Belt Chamber of Commerce's desire to take on the project.

Once, and if, the funding is greenlit, the chamber will focus on Emu Swamp while the council now plans to run a parallel study of its own.

The council voted to: "approve the re-allocation of the $50,000 (from the 17/18 budget) identified for the Emu Swamp Dam Feasibility Study to (instead) initiate a water management plan for the whole Southern Downs region”.

It intends to progress the alternative options identified in the June GHD report to develop a funding application leading to a future detailed business case. Previously identified options included, in order of favourability determined by council; Integrated Water Supply Management, Connolly Dam Pipeline, raise Storm King Dam, Ballandean Dam (urban supply only) and lastly Emu Swamp Dam (urban supply only).

"The $50,000 can kick-start some of that low hanging fruit,” council manager Michael Bell said.

"All that feasibility still needs to occur to ensure that what we put forward stacks up.”

Council chief David Keenan said it was imperative something be done.

"The important thing is not to do nothing. We must do something because the council has not done anything over an extended period of time in relation to water conservation, in relation to securing an urban water supply,” he said.

Six councillors voted for the plan while Cr Vic Pennisi and Cr Cameron Gow were not swayed by the proposal in its entirety.

"We can afford to do 'A' (Integrated Water Supply Management), I agree with the manager on that, we can't afford to do the rest, not properly, not all of them,” Cr Gow said.

"I don't know that $500,000 will do it, I'm thinking $2 million to do it all properly. To come up with something that you can put next to Emu Swamp Dam and say 'it's better or worse'.

"If we're going to make an informed decision on this it needs to be done properly. I think this is our last run at it to get it right. "We should continue to lobby but only on what the community wants. That's what we're elected to do.”

While Cr Gow held up Emu Swamp as the benchmark, Mayor Tracy Dobie maintained it was infeasible. "We can argue it all day. We know it's going to be expensive water, we need to move forward looking at a provision of urban water. I personally believe while Emu Swamp Dam stays an urban and irrigation solution it will never see the light of day,” she said.

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