2003 – Keepit Dam Upgrade – The Community Consultation Way

Suzie Gaynor, Jocelyn Potts, David Watson

State Water # as manager of Keepit Dam has established a comprehensive upgrade project.
A portfolio risk assessment by State Water of its major dams placed Keepit Dam as the highest priority for an upgrade.

While extreme flood and earthquake dam safety are the main drivesr for this upgrade, the opportunity has been taken to integrate other key dam management considerations into the process including environmental improvements, flood mitigation and sustainable regional development.

The dam, which is located on the Namoi River some 45km upstream of Gunnedah, is, in tandem with Split Rock Dam upstream, a vital irrigation water supply for the Namoi Valley region in northern New South Wales.

In considering the most appropriate way of addressing the critical flood safety issue, it became very apparent that the solutions were many and they significantly impacted on the local community. Other important issues such as water quality and flood mitigation, and overall sustainable development in the valley, particularly system water reliability, could influence dam safety solutions and so also needed to be considered as part of the process. As such it was considered imperative that the local community be actively involved in determining both interim and long-term upgrade solutions.

To achieve the best outcome for the region, State Water since mid 2001, has used the community consultation approach to guide the project.
Currently interim works have been completed and long-term options are being evaluated.

An Environmental Impact Statement on the preferred proposal will be undertaken during the later part of 2004 and if approved, all works will be completed by end of 2007.

This paper will highlight our experiences to date including:

  • the proposition of an integrated consultative process;
  • the background to the project;
  • the need for and extent of upgrade;
  • an integrated consultation and communication approach including innovative processes and the creation of a high profile Community Reference Panel (CRP) to guide the upgrade project;
  • some dos and don’ts from a consultation perspective, for use in other upgrade projects; and where to from now.
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