THE region’s ongoing drought conditions have forced Lake Keepit Sailing Club to cease operations for the foreseeable future.
Currently sitting at just 0.5 per cent capacity, the lake has been deemed unsafe for sailing.
The decision has cast doubt not just on the club’s short-term activities, but also the annual June Keepit Regatta, which is one of the biggest sailing events in the region.
Club president Ian Pine said the current dam level was “very disappointing.”
“For the time being we’ve been forced to curtail our usual sailing calendar,” Pine said.
“Some of our members are still looking to go out for a casual paddle and things like that but nothing on a competitive scale.
“Officially we don’t have enough water in the dam to guarantee the safety of everyone.
“It’s very disappointing but that’s how it goes.”
In the short-term, the closure will see the club go without its usual Sunday sailing and Discover Sailing sessions.
“Really this closure is very detrimental to our club’s future,” Pine said.
“We have put a lot of effort into our Discover Sailing sessions in recent years and we are one of the few clubs in our part of the state who offer them.
“It’s tough to get these kinds of things going again once they stop, but we’ll try our best.”
A return to competition for the club remains unclear as WaterNSW has no immediate plans to release additional water into the dam.
“At this stage there are no plans for further water transfers from Split Rock Dam, which currently sits at 4.5 per cent and provides essential town supply to Barraba and Manilla, as well as Upper Namoi landholders,” a WaterNSW spokesperson said.
“The best prospect for inflows into Keepit is as a result of the Queensland summer storm season.”
Pine said the dam’s current level is the worst he has seen it in his time with the club.
“It was very low in 2002 and 2007, but we were still able to sail,” he said.
“In my opinion, all of the water that has been used out of Lake Keepit to go towards irrigators has been the issue.
“As far as I know, when the lake was built it wasn’t strictly intended to be for irrigators but more for everyone.
“I think the powers that be have a lot to answer for.”
A WaterNSW spokesperson hosed down claims the dam’s dwindling resources had been misused.
“A dam on the Namoi River was proposed as early as the 1890s to boost agricultural production in the Namoi Valley,” the spokesperson said.
“Today, the dam’s primary purpose is to supply towns and other water customers, including irrigators, who in turn pay much of the structure’s maintenance costs via water charges, which are determined by an independent regulatory body (IPART or ACCC).
“WaterNSW recognises the importance of the recreational amenity provided by its dam storages, including Keepit, and works with user groups to encourage such activity.”