There are active proposals for a total of four new dams/weirs on the Burdekin: Hells Gates Dam (HGD); Big Rocks Weir, raising of the Burdekin Falls Dam and Urannah Dam. The cumulative effect of the additional water extraction of these will have a disastrous impact on the health of the Burdekin and the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) lagoon. Impacts include:
a) turning the Burdekin turbid for 12 months of the year below the dams (in the case of the HGD - for 270km or 52% of the Burdekin length), affecting all aquatic life in the river.
b) increased rise of the water table and salination in the Lower Burdekin Irrigation Areas, threatening established crop production.
c) sediment starvation and erosion of Cape Bowling Green (CBG). Breaching of CBG would radically affect Bowling Green Bay, and potentially affect the coastal communities of Cungalla and Jerona.
d) increased nutrient flows to the GBR from additional areas of agriculture. This would further intensify the existing threat to GBR water quality, reef health and biodiversity.
NQCC first raised concerns on the proposal for the Hells Gates Dam in October 2016 and again in November 2019. The Feasibility Study (2018) showed that irrigated agriculture in the proposed areas would not be economic for farmers, and yet a further $24M has been granted for a detailed Business Case Study.
In early 2020, NQCC formed the Burdekin Basin Sub-Committee which has;
a) studied a wide range of reports and academic studies;
b) conducted field visits to inspect sensitive sites (e.g. Cape Bowling Green erosion);
c) hosted a high-level seminar attended by a range of stakeholders (local councils, irrigators, fishing industry and environmental agencies) which covered issues in all areas of the Burdekin Basin;
d) made a submission to the Coordinator General for a coordinated approach to assessing proposals for water extraction and longer-term management of the Burdekin Basin.
This web page brings the results of this work together for all agencies and individuals with responsibilities and concerns for sustainable water management in the Burdekin, and in Australia more generally. The site will be updated as additional information and progress in activities becomes available.