The proposed Emu Swamp Dam site.
The proposed Emu Swamp Dam site. Emma Boughen

Environmental tick of approval for dam

MAYOR Peter Blundell is delighted at the Federal Government's environmental approval last week of Emu Swamp Dam, and describes the project as one of the most significant in Southern Downs Regional Council's history.

"Emu Swamp Dam is vitally important economically, socially and in terms of the sustainability of the communities on the Granite Belt," Cr Blundell said. "We are being challenged by our ability to supply water to the Granite Belt over a number of dry weather periods, which further reinforces the need for Emu Swamp Dam as a vital piece of infrastructure for the Granite Belt."

Cr Blundell said he was well aware the approval was just one of many milestones that needed to be reached before construction even started. "While it will be some time before construction can begin, with these approvals council can now move forward, progressing funding strategies," he said.

The federal approval comes with a list of environmental conditions similar to those imposed by the State Government.

But Cr Blundell said the council had already replied and accepted the conditions.

"It is good to see that this project is progressing - there has been a lot of frustration among people during the last few years about how slow the process was," he said. Cr Blundell said the next step was to secure funding for the project, which is expected to cost $76 million.

The council will discuss the options at the next council meeting, which is to be held in Stanthorpe on November 26. "We will also be looking at what options we are going to put to the state and federal governments," Cr Blundell said. Cr Vic Pennisi, who has been involved with the project since the start, said the approval was just another step in the right direction. "One of the next steps is to raise the money," he said. "We will be asking both levels of government if there is anything available.

"It would be a shame to see this project come to a halt while the momentum is going because of a lack of funding." Despite highlighting the Emu Swamp Dam as an important project, a spokesman said the federal Department of Agriculture was yet to put aside any money for the project.

"The Australian Government made an election commitment to start the detailed planning necessary to build new dams - to secure the nation's water supplies and deliver strong economic benefits for Australia while protecting the environment," he said.

"A Water Infrastructure Ministerial Working Group was established at the request of the Prime Minister in March 2014.

"A key role of the group was to develop an options paper identifying how to accelerate investment in strategic water infrastructure projects.

"The Emu Swamp dam was identified in the Water Infrastructure Ministerial Working Group's Options Paper as a project that could warrant future consideration of possible capital investment.

"At this early stage, consideration has not been made about Australian Government investment in the Emu Swamp dam."

However, the government has agreed to fund four of the water infrastructure projects identified in the options paper.

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