1999 – Walla Weir Impact Assessment and Approval

Ken Watson

The Bundaberg Irrigation Area (BIA) is served by a reticulation system of channels, pipelines, pump stations and balancing storages drawing water from a major dam (Fred Haigh on the Kolan River), augmented by a number of weirs and tidal barrages. The scheme as originally proposed in the late 1960’s included a major dam on the Burnett River that has never been built. Accordingly, the reliability of the system was lower than desired, a situation exacerbated by prolonged drought during the 1990’s.

In the 1980s, alternative (cheaper) sources of water supply were investigated and a weir site on the Burnett River (Walla) was selected as the most promising. In 1993, the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments agreed to the Sugar Industry Infrastructure Package (SHP). Walla Weir was included in the Package, subject to environmental and economic assessment.

Detailed impact assessment studies were carried out and submitted to both State and Commonwealth Environment departments. In the light of strong opposition from environmental groups (whose major concern was the Queensland Lungfish), the Federal Minister for the Environment commissioned an independent review of the IAS before granting approval.

Approval was conditional on the implementation of an Environmental Management Plan and a River Operation Plan as well as a commitment to undertake extensive baseline studies before any new development is proposed in the area. This paper will discuss the investigation and approval process and describe the additional monitoring/studies being carried out.

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