The following letter by John Connell was published in the Townsville Bulletin on 1 May 2021.
In the last week several Federal politicians, McCormack and Littleproud passed through Townsville and talked up building more dams in the north. They criticised the Queensland Government for being slow to spend big dollars on building new dams, a mouth-watering $6B for Hells Gates Dam.
These are intelligent men, and so they should take the time to do the maths. The water really isn't there. In the TEL (Townsville Enterprise Ltd.) proposal, Hells Gates Dam would provide up to 580,000 ML from the Upper Burdekin catchment to irrigate 50,000 ha. TEL's Feasibility Study of 2018 showed that while the mean flows are 1,160,000 ML per year, the flows in most years will be closer to half that. Extracting half or more of the mainstream flows is not acceptable for the health of the river. We only need to look at the Murray-Darling.Read more
Below is an article published in the Townsville Bulletin on Wednesday 16 December, 2020.
Burdekin Mayor, Lyn McLaughlin
Mayor Lyn McLaughlin calls for impact assessment of Burdekin catchment damming
A North Queensland mayor has called for an independent body to review the potential impacts of damming the Burdekin River catchment.Read more
Turbid water below Burdekin Falls Dam (NQCC field trip, June 2020)
As more information comes to light from feasibility studies into the construction of Hells Gates Dam, it becomes ever clearer that this proposal is not only economically unfeasible but also a significant risk to the health of the Burdekin River and Great Barrier Reef Marine Park - particularly when considered alongside other projects proposed for the river system.Read more
The Burdekin Basin supports a range of landscapes and communities, and activities such as agriculture, fishing and recreation.
Should they proceed, the numerous dam proposals along the Burdekin could threaten the long-term health of the river, as well as the internationally important, Ramsar-listed wetlands of Bowling Green Bay and the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.
Urannah Dam, Hells Gates Dam and the expansion of the Burdekin Falls Dam could together contribute to increased turbidity (dirtiness) of the Burdekin River, rising water tables (and associated threats to agricultural production) in the Lower Burdekin, the erosion of Cape Bowling Green due to sediment starvation, and increased nutrient flows to the Great Barrier Reef.
There is a lot of research and information available covering these topics of concern, and we have listed some useful resources on this page.
We aim to raise awareness of the risks associated with multiple, large-scale dam proposals and work with policy-makers, stakeholders and North Queensland communities to ensure the best outcomes for people, industry and the environment. We are working to prevent the Burdekin River from becoming the next Murray-Darling.
- July 2021: The Terms of Reference for the Environmental Impact Statement for Big Rocks Weir have been released.
- June 2021: Looking for a win-win on the Burdekin - an abstract by John Connell
- May 2021: Erosion of Cape Bowling Green - an overview
- May 2021: Running Our Rivers Dry - a letter published in the Townsville Bulletin
- March 2021: Swimming for Our Rivers - a fundraiser to support our Rivers campaign
- March 2021: Burdekin River Sustainability in Focus on World Water Day - a media release
- December 2020: Mayor McLaughlin on Burdekin Catchment Damming - an article from the Townsville Bulletin
- Click here to see the latest updates and all previous blog posts relating to this campaign.
- This document was prepared by Dr Eric Wolanski and John Connell, and provides a summary of some of the environmental issues facing the Burdekin Basin, with a focus on the erosion of Cape Bowling Green.
- Check out the Productivity Commission webinar (02/03/2021) on National Water Reform 2020 here.
- Read our submission on the National Water Reform draft report here.
- Read our latest submissions on the Burdekin Falls Dam Raising Project and the Urannah Dam Project here.
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.
There is no need for the Hells Gates Dam and it makes no sense! When Townsville faced a water crisis several years ago, all sorts of suggestions were made about the best way to secure a water supply for Townsville. The Hells Gates Dam was suggested by many as the way to guarantee water supply for Townsville, but we disagree.Read more