THE politically charged issue of new dams has been reignited by New England MP Barnaby Joyce, who yesterday called for the construction of the shelved Aspley River dam project.
Mr Joyce, who is chairman of the federal government’s Dams Task Force committee, said the dam, east of Walcha, would deliver jobs, zero-emission electricity and much-needed water for the Murray Darling Basin system.
The project was last touted in 1983, when the NSW Electricity Commission investigated it as a means to supplying water for hydro electricity generation.
The project also had the capacity to lift water back across the Dividing Range by way of a series of tunnels and pipelines to put water into the McDonald River, which would then flow into the Murray Darling Basin.
The idea was scotched by the state Labor government of the time.
Mr Joyce said the original report prepared for the Electricity Commission and confirmed by the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation gives the dams’ committee an almost shovel ready project which could be fast-tracked.
“In Australia we have to find more water storage. In the ’80s when this project was stopped, there was about 4.5 megalitres of water stored per person,” Mr Joyce said.
“If we don’t do anything, by 2050 there will only be 2.5 megalitres of stored water per person. That’s way below our requirements.
“So the nation, for no other reason than our population is growing, needs to build more water storages.”
Mr Joyce said he had been aware of the proposal to build the Apsley River Dam for a considerable period of time.
“I know it would bring a great economic boom to the area,” he said.
“It’s a good time to start discussing how we would get projects like this back onto the drawing board and back into a position where we could finance and build them.
“My only problem is going to be fighting the environmentalists.
“If you do what they want you will end up like Tasmania, where basically everyone is broke.”
According to the report, the estimated cost of the Apsley River project in 1983 was $1.063 billion.