Water in Woolgoolga dam to be sold-off to farmers
A COFFS Harbour City councillor has questioned the decision to allow water from a dam to be used on local agricultural farms, and says the first councillors heard about it was via a media release.
With ongoing drought and fires raging across the region Woolgoolga residents were quick to raise the alarm as they noticed water being carted away from the dam off Newman's Rd.
The council issued a media release saying water from the dam, which was set to be decommissioned due to a change in State Government regulations, would be used temporarily by local agricultural producers to: 'make sure they survive this current drought'.
The press release claims the move will help safeguard local jobs, local wildlife and a lake environment but Cr Townley has questioned the lack of consultation and consideration of other options for the water.
"Woolgoolga Dam is a stand-alone dam that predates our Regional Water Supply Scheme and is not connected to it in any way," the council's Director Sustainable Infrastructure Mick Raby said.
"It has no specific water source except run-off from the surrounding catchment. What it does provide is a water source for local wildlife and a long-term environmental benefit for the health of Woolgoolga Lake."
Recent changes to the NSW Dam Safety Regulations meant the height of the dam put it into a new risk category.
"That meant we would have had to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to maintain it to the required standard," he said.
"So we decided to lower the dam wall - which would reduce council's risk and operating cost whilst maintaining a water source for local wildlife - but take it out of the risk category that required extensive ongoing maintenance.
"But that did mean we needed to remove a lot of the water first and the only place we could send it to would've been Woolgoolga Lake. Woolgoolga Lake is a tidal lagoon and so you can't overwhelm it with huge amounts of fresh water in one go. So we were looking at spending six months 'trickling' the extra water into the lake."
So when local agricultural producers approached council asking to buy the water in the dam, to help them survive the drought, council decided to go with this option.
Councillor Townley says she will be following up with senior staff about the decision.
"The fact that blueberry farms cannot survive these dry conditions without the use of town water says a lot about the sustainability of the industry," Cr Townley said.
"I am also concerned that council has taken a decision to get rid of this large dam without discussion. I am questioning this with staff."