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EHP calls tenders to bulldoze huge dam wall near Cooktown; 30,000 tonnes of potential sediment runoff

The fallout from the 2016 acquisition of Springvale Station at Lakeland continues after the Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection called for tenders to demolish a 1200 megalitre irrigation dam on the property.

Last year the EPH was caught out when a neighbour complained of long silt plumes found in the permanent East Normanby River after the department began siphoning water from the $400,000 dam into the river.

The river eventually drains into Princess Charlotte Bay and onto the Great Barrier Reef.

This massive irrigation dam costing $400,000 to construct will soon be bulldozed by EHP, by removing an estimated 30,000 cubic metres of earth in the wall. An engineer predicts this soil could eventually end up in the river system and be deposited onto the Great Barrier Reef.

 

The water was left to run across 150 metres of soil between the dam bank and the river, gouging one metre channels in the earth creating many hundreds of tonnes of sediment which flowed into the river.

A local engineer estimated the wall would contain 30,000 cubic metres of compacted earth, when removed could eventually end up in the river system.

The hydrologist who designed the dam for the previous owners said the dam wall was sound and in no way would have breached after heavy rain events.

The EHP Minister at the time, Stephen Miles, claimed the design of the dam’s construction was unknown and therefore considered the wall “unsafe.”

Refuting the Minister’s assertion, the hydrologist, Geoff Benjamin, of Mareeba, said the wall remained intact and sound after 300 mm fell in one night, before the wall construction was finally completed.

“The dam was designed with an effective spillway and fish-way, however construction work was forced to cease due to early wet-season rains,” Mr Benjamin said.

“Although I did not visit the site when work ceased, I believe that the embankment height was about 1 to 1.5 m below the intended final design elevation.

“At this elevation a natural depression on the eastern side provides a broad, natural spillway so that the embankment would not be compromised in the event of intense storm run-off; which is in fact, exactly what occurred when Cyclone Etta, I think, passed straight over the property in January 2014, reportedly dropping about 300 mm of rain over-night!

“The statement about ‘unacceptable safety risk’ would therefore seem totally baseless.  Unfortunately such uninformed, alarmist comments seem to be what we’ve come to expect from this particular Minister.”

Defending the decision to demolish the valuable water asset, home to innumerable birdlife and other aquatic wildlife, the EHP claimed the design was unknown, which has been ridiculed by Mr Benjamin.

“Likewise the assertion that ‘the status of its design and capacity is unknown’ is inaccurate, since I provided details of the design to one of the Minister’s departmental officers not long after EHP acquired the Springvale property,” Mr Benjamin said.

The EHP claimed it acquired Springvale to prevent sediment runoff into the Great Barrier Reef catchment, however the Chief Scientist for Queensland, Dr Geoff Garrett, told a meeting of landowners at Lakeland prior to the property purchase there was no measurable sediment runoff from the Upper Normanby catchment.

Minister Miles ignored this advice and continued with the purchase, wasting $7 million of taxpayers funds and removed 4000 head of cattle from the local economy.

The property is being divided into yet more unnecessary national park with the balance being given to an indigenous group.

Tenders to decommission the dam were called on January 24 and will close on March 5, 2018.

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EHP draining irrigation dam flushing tonnes of sediment onto the reef

Draining and bulldozing of the ‘Cook’ irrigation dam on Springvale Station by the EHP has been described as “environmental vandalism” by a neighbouring landowner

-article contributed

The draining and bulldozing of a 1000 megalitre irrigation dam at Springvale Station south west of Cooktown by the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection has made a mockery of preventing sediment runoff onto the Great Barrier Reef.

Millions of litres of dam water is being siphoned from the dam directly into the East Normanby River, creating a muddy plume for many kilometres downstream, dumping thousands of tonnes of sediment onto the reef.

The East Normanby runs into the now dry West Normanby to become the Normanby  River which eventually runs into Princess Charlotte Bay.

The 2016 purchase of the former cattle property by EHP drew much criticism from the farming industry when it was discovered flawed sediment runoff data was the basis for its acquisition by the government.

A spokesman for EHP Minister Stephen Miles confirmed the dam was being pumped out and millions of litres of valuable water were being discharged into the flowing East Normanby River.

Deep channels have been cut below the dam wall by water gushing from a siphon polypipe in the 1000ml dam flowing straight into the East Normanby River. The EHP intends to bulldoze this massive earth wall

Water being siphoned from the irrigation dam has cut a deep channel through the soil and is draining directly into the flowing East Normanby River(top of photo) creating massive sediment plumes kilometres downstream

The EHP has claimed the dam could fail, but adjoining landowner and former Cook Shire Mayor Graham Elmes said the dam was sound, properly built, had gone through four wet seasons and had filled easily during its first wet in 2013.

“This dam also acted as a large sediment trap filtering runoff into the river system, but when the walls are bulldozed what will happen to the 30,000 cubic metres of earth that an engineer has measured,” he said.

“It can’t be left in the excavation area because it will simply run off into the river and then Springvale actually will have a sediment runoff problem.”

KAP Rob Katter MP for Mt Isa

KAP State leader Robbie Katter said the State Government is on a crusade against farmers.

“They are deceiving the public through misinformation and inaccurate data,” Mr Katter said.

“This is a fallacy, again derived from incorrect data and is a waste of viable, developed grazing property, which would be far better managed by a farmer than the State Government. This dam should be left intact.”

North East Regional Manager of Agforce Paul Burke was incensed that a government could undertake such “wanton waste.”

“It beggars belief that such a precious commodity could be pumped down the river when this property could have been producing a number of irrigated crops and still breeding cattle,” Mr Burke said.

The EHP spokesman claimed the dam “did not undergo a full regulatory approvals process as required by State legislation and is therefore unauthorised.

Stephen Miles (away) EHP Minister

“To prevent dam failure and any subsequent downstream impacts, including contributions to sediment production within the catchment, the dam will be decommissioned and the land will be rehabilitated,” the spokesman said.

Mr Elmes was adamant the dam had been properly constructed and there was absolutely no chance the dam wall could fail.

“Bulldozing this water asset that cost $400,000 to build is totally irresponsible and an act of environmental vandalism.

“The government should stop all destructive activities on this property, freehold and subdivide it into four blocks and ballot these blocks for younger farmers,” he said.

Qld Govt at war with itself over $7m cattle property purchase

More jaundiced reporting from the ABC about Springvale Station west of Cooktown that the Queensland Environment Department bought for $7 million to prevent sediment runoff into the ocean.

The only problem is that bogus data was used to base the purchase, when in fact the Government’s own previously published scientific data clearly showed Springvale Station was responsible for less than one per cent runoff into Princess Charlotte Bay.

See story Cairns News: ‘Lakefield National Park contributes more reef runoff than all combined cattle properties in the catchment’

from ABC

In what could be a storyline from the satirical TV series Yes Minister, the Queensland Government has gone to war with itself.

Key points:

  • The Mines Department is considering an application to mine a river on state-owned land for gold and tin
  • The Environment Department bought the land in a bid to halt sediment reaching the reef
  • The two departments are in a legal fight in the Land Court

The ABC has learned one Queensland Government department has lodged a legal objection to another department over a plan to mine a river on state-owned land.

The Department of Environment and Heritage Protection is taking on the Department of Natural Resources and Mines in a stoush in the Land Court over Springvale Station on Cape York.

The Queensland Government bought the massive cattle station for $7 million last year.

The idea was to stop, or at least reduce, hundreds of thousands of tonnes of sediment from the property washing from the West Normanby River into the Great Barrier Reef.

But it seems — in the best traditions of Yes Minister — the left hand did not know what the right hand was doing.

At the same time the Environment Department was buying the property to prevent damaging sediment flowing down the river, the Natural Resources Department was considering an application to mine the river at Springvale Station for gold and tin ore.

Now the case is before the Queensland Land Court.

In its objection, the Environment Department argues “the public right and interest will be prejudiced by the proposed mining activity as it will directly and negatively impact the biodiversity values for which the property was acquired”.

It says research suggests that “Springvale Station is the source of approximately 460,000 tonnes of sediment runoff every year, which is around 40 per cent of all gully erosion-derived sediment in the Normanby River catchment”.

The West Normanby River joins the eastern branch of the river before draining into Princess Charlotte Bay and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

“The proposed mining activity will likely further destabilise the alluvial and colluvial soils of the West Normanby River and increase soil erosion and sediment loss,” the Environment Department said in its objection.

“… The long-term economic benefits of enhancing environmental outcomes through this acquisition will far exceed the economic and employment benefits of this small mining operation.”

The department also warns sedimentation blocks light for coral, smothers marine organisms and reduces coral and seagrass growth.

It states the northern section of the reef has been significantly affected by coral bleaching, with “high levels of coral mortality”.

“For those corals to have the best chance of recovery, the water quality needs to be as good as possible,” the Environment Department wrote.

Endangered plants, animals on land: Environment Department

The State Government has already begun removing cattle from Springvale Station in a bid to reduce sediment run-off.

The Environment Department said it would invest a substantial amount of public money for conservation work on the property to further reduce run-off, with the price tag set at $30,000 a hectare.

The department also said the property was home to endangered or vulnerable flora and fauna species, including the northern quoll, red goshawk, brown antelope orchid and spectacled flying fox.

In a statement to the ABC, the Environment Department said it was the Government’s “intention that Springvale Station be declared a nature refuge”.

But it said such a declaration would “not necessarily preclude the commencement of activities proposed under the mining lease application”.

A spokesman for the Land Court said the objection to the proposed mine would be heard in August.

ABC 7.30 Report airs another untruthful story about embattled Cape York and reef runoff

from Jim O’Toole at Cooktown

The highly controversial purchase of the 150,000 acre Springvale Station, 50 klms west of Cooktown by the State Government is refusing to die in the media, in spite of a recent scientific report clearing the Lakeland farming district of any reef runoff from the Springvale river catchment.

Taking advantage of annual coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef , 200 nautical miles north of Cooktown that this year covered a larger than normal area, ABC Television and their usual Green bed mates have wasted tens of thousands of dollars of taxpayers money with false and misleading reports.

Tuesday night’s 7.30 Report hosted by Mark Willacy took the cake.

After lower Cape York Peninsula viewers last year were treated to one of the most misleading reports ever broadcast by the ABC about land clearing at Olive Vale station, 60 klms to the north, WWF head kicker Andrew Picone was joined on the show by Tim Hughes of the South Endeavour Trust.

Local viewers said the story was devoid of fact and an insult to Peninsula farmers and cattle producers who believed comments by Mr Hughes amounted to a “bid for paid management rights.”

“Never let the facts get in the way of a Green story,” another landowner, who asked not to be named, told Cairns News.

Tim Hughes, through the South Endeavour Trust, manages the neighbouring property Kings Plains.

The Trust has 10 properties in its portfolio, purportedly managed by Mr Hughes for ‘conservation values.’

Predictably the ABC trotted out an indigenous group from Laura to visit the seasonal river.

They said members of their community visited the Normanby to catch fish and for recreational camping.

Cairns News can report that some indigenous people regard river beds as rubbish dumps, as the picture below of the nearby Laura River shows.

2007-01-05 02.18.26

Rubbish from an Aboriginal camp site left in the bed of the Laura River

This campsite in the Laura River bed was photographed last year after a group of indigenous people left a mountain of rubbish behind. Beer bottles, food wrapping, an old mattress and disposable baby nappies were strewn about the river bed.

It was not removed and ended up being flushed down the river in the first fresh late last year.

Kings Plains manager Daryl Paradise and Mr Picone claimed a mining application by former Cook Shire Mayor and onetime owner of Springvale, Graham Elmes would silt-up the entire Barrier Reef if mining in the sandy bed of the West Normanby River went ahead.

 Government

The West Normanby River 50 klm west of Cooktown locked up by the State Government to prevent construction of an irrigation dam

Mr Elmes explained that removing gold or tin from sandy river beds is quite common in the Far North.

A large gold dredge was operating in the Mitchell River last year and the rich Palmer River had been extensively mined in this way for 120 years, without any evidence of serious river degradation.

Along with Mark Willacy, who was present at nearby Lakeland three weeks ago when the Great Barrier Reef Water Science Task Force gave the entire catchment area of the Normanby River system a clean bill of health, Mr Hughes seemed to be unaware of this finding. http://www.gbr.qld.gov.au/documents/gbrwst-interim-report-highres.pdf

Chief Scientist for Queensland, Dr Geoff Garrett, who heads the Task Force, told farmers in late May that the study found no measurable runoff coming from the Normanby catchment area that eventually runs into the sea.

This makes the $7m purchase of Springvale a rather spurious acquisition to halt alleged reef runoff.

Most farmers agree the well-improved cattle station, which runs 3500 breeder cattle, was purchased solely to prevent the proposed West Normanby dam site from going ahead.

Prior to the election, the Federal Government allocated $825,000 to conduct a feasibility study for a new dam site to provide reliable irrigation water for the nearby, expanding Lakeland farming district.

A substantial State Government budget allocation was made for the purpose of progressing World Heritage nominations for Cape York Peninsula.

The WWF and ACF have for two decades or more pushed the ALP to nominate the entire Cape for World Heritage, in defiance of the wishes of all Aboriginal communities.

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