Letter to the Editor-November 13: Hydro station alternatives

TIM Howard (28/10) highlighted the dilemma of the old Nymboida hydro power station, which is currently not operating, and the internationally renowned whitewater canoeing course on Goolang Creek, which is closed because it requires water from the power station.

Goolang Creek is only 7km long and drops 100m before it flows into Blaxlands Creek/Orara River on its way into the Clarence Estuary. It would appear that except for rare occasions the creek is just pools of water. Hence its reliance on the power station to provide the water.

With the power station needing extensive maintenance, what are the options? The following are just three of the many alternatives:

(1) Close the power station and relegate the canoeing to history, but keep a small flow into the creek for the environment and the down-creek personal and irrigation users, as is the present situation.

(2) Close the power station but run the pipeline straight into the creek. This would still incur significant capital and operational costs. It would allow canoeing to continue for a short time each year, as well as supplying down-creek personal and irrigation water.

(3) Carry out major maintenance or rebuild the power station and possibly the pipeline.

Richie Williams made the reasonable comment: "It's unbelievable, with all the publicity about renewable energy sources that we have a hydro-electric power station not producing electricity."

There is a power station there but it is 89 years old and needs to be replaced or given an extensive overhaul. Either would be very expensive and not economically viable. Not only that the environ-green (E-G) community would object to this to be done. Really!

These days the E-Gs no longer consider hydro power as acceptable renewable energy, and maybe never did. In the US for example they are having hydro power plants closed and even dams dismantled. Also remember that Australia's E-G movement started on the Franklin River in Tasmania to stop a hydro dam being built. And since the Franklin they have opposed (generally successfully) every dam proposal, much to the detriment of Australia's future. Go back and check the chaos and expense they imposed during the construction of our Shannon Creek dam. It's very much in their genes to oppose dams and hydro power.

To justify option three of upgrading or rebuilding the hydro station, it would need to run most of the time to justify the cost. To keep the power station running requires up to 860ML/day of water. If it ran every day it would need 300GL/year, which is 10 Shannon Dams or 80% of the Nymboida River's annual flow. This would be in addition to water that is taken out for the lower Clarence and Coffs Harbour pipelines and the Shannon Creek Dam. No wonder the river below the weir is an environmental disaster as was documented in a Clarence Environmental Centre (2007) report. This leaves options one or two. Option two would be a sentimental choice but it too has a number of environmental and cost problems, so I suspect it will be option one or something like it, which wins the day.

It is also a power station in the wrong place. These days for a hydro station to be environmentally acceptable (not that any are, according to the E-Gs) it has to return the water to the same river it took the water from - there are exceptions, but this isn't one of them. Taking water needed by the lower river and then just sending the water out to sea fails the test. And surprisingly in this instance, I would agree with them.

A competition boating course requires a controllable flow of water, which is why the Goolang Creek canoe course was so successful. Are there any other options for this in the Clarence Valley? There is a realistic and sound alternative based on rational environmentalism, which would provide, amongst other benefits, a great canoeing course 300 days a year. (And, no, it has nothing to do with my Clarence Gorge Dam proposal.) Somehow though I suspect if I proposed it, I'd be tarred, feathered and run out of town.

John Ibbotson
Gulmarrad



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