In an opinion piece in CQToday, Capricornia MP Michelle Landry said that the privately owned Urannah Dam west of Mackay “is ready to go”. That statement is not supported by the facts.
The current proposal to build a dam on the Broken River downstream from Urannah Creek has not been approved by the federal or Queensland governments.
In fact, according to the Queensland Coordinator General’s website, the private company proposing Urannah Dam is still preparing a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
The public has not been informed about when that draft EIS will be submitted but there will still be a lot of work to do before the project is “ready to go”, if it ever is.
After an acceptable draft EIS is submitted to the Coordinator General, the EIS will be open to review by independent experts, landholders and members of the public, who will all have a chance to challenge it.
The proponents would then have to go away and produce an acceptable supplementary EIS that addresses those issues. That could take years.
In the final budget of the Morrison government, the private company proposing the dam, Bowen River Utilities, was promised nearly half a billion dollars of taxpayers funds to subsidise construction, provided the project stacked up economically and environmentally.
The dam makes no economic sense. A review of the preliminary business case for the dam by economists Altus Impact showed that the project would return as little as 26 cents for every dollar it cost.
The proponent’s subsequent detailed business case was more optimistic but still calculated that the dam would lose 5 cents in the dollar invested.
Michelle Landry says the dam will provide “water security for Regional North Queensland”. Her colleague, the current Member for Dawson, Andrew Wilcox, also claimed that Urannah Dam would provide water security for the Whitsundays and Bowen.
Even Bowen River Utilities has ruled that out due to the exorbitant cost of pumping water over the range.
The Urannah Dam also has no water allocation in the Burdekin Water Plan. The plan would have to be amended to allow it to fill and will require an act of parliament to change the plan.
Another major impediment is that the dam’s proponent doesn’t own the land that the dam would inundate. As a private company Bowen River Utilities cannot compulsorily acquire the land. If landholders refuse to sell the project will be at a standstill.
Far from being ready to go, the Urannah Dam faces a number of major obstacles, some of them will be impossible to overcome.
UPDATE 14 Oct 2022: Email the federal treasurer, Jim Chalmers, and request the federal government to provide no further taxpayer funding for this private dam project: