Mackay Conservation Group’s former coordinator, Ian Sutton, undertook a biological assessment of the Urannah Creek west of Mackay in 2004. He found a hidden valley in almost pristine condition. Ian described a valley without weeds that provided habitat in the form of Bluegum forest and endangered Black Ironbox, with stands on Ironbark on its slopes.
Urannah Creek is the most permanent river in the Burdekin system and supports healthy fish and turtle populations.
Although Urannah is close to several population centres, the topography and the lack of good road access makes it a very remote place. During the dry season four wheel drive vehicles are necessary to access the creek. In wet season the area virtually impassable. The valley is walled in by the ranges on all sides, except for a gap near Mt Cauley where the Broken River exits on its journey westward.
These physical barriers and the joint boundary with Eungella National Park to the south east, plus the lack of any past ‘pasture improvements’ render the area an isolated ‘island’ of virtually pristine natural heritage. Ian described the valley as a secure, almost unique example of pre-European landscape of the area. Those values haven’t changed since 2004. This unique and important area west of the Eungella rainforest is once again under threat, with plans of a massive dam, industrial scale irrigated agriculture and a questionable hydroelectric scheme.Read more
2 March 2020
Rivers Fundraiser Exceeds Expectations
The threat to wildlife posed by the proposed Urannah Dam has inspired community members to donate more than $20,000 to Mackay Conservation Group over the past six weeks.
Late last year the group began planning a fundraising swim-a-thon, hoping to raise $10,000 for a campaign to highlight the impact Urannah Dam would have on the Irwin's Turtle.
The Swim For Our Rivers fundraiser attracted a lot of community support and more than doubled expectations.
Mackay Conservation Group coordinator, Peter McCallum, said "donors contributed amounts from $5 to several thousand dollars.
"We were stunned when one person approached us to say that they would match any donation we received in the last week of the campaign, up to $10,000. It was such a pleasant surprise.Read more
One of Mackay’s unique species is Irwin’s Turtle. Back in 1990 the famous naturalist Steve Irwin and his father Bob were fishing near the Bowen River when Bob spotted an unusual white headed turtle. They caught one, photographed it and returned it to the wild. Later the pair sent the photos to experts for identification. It turned out the turtle they found had never been recorded by scientists.
Irwin’s Turtle is very good at hiding from scientists. It took another three years before a second was found and a proper identification made. The scientists who described the turtle named it Elseya irwini in honour of the pair who first alerted the scientific community to its existence.
Irwin’s Turtle has a very limited range, perhaps only 25 square kilometres in total. It inhabits the Bowen River and tributaries such as Urannah Creek where the water is clean and free flowing. These turtles require well oxygenated water and sandy banks to survive.
Irwin’s Turtle has evolved in isolation for 150 million years. We have known it for less than 30 and we could wipe it out in a decade. Very little is known about Irwin’s Turtle’s life cycle or the extent of its habitat, yet we may send it to extinction by building a dam on Urannah Creek.Read more
Tomorrow (June 8) is World Oceans Day, so it’s time to consider the big blue bits that cover 70 per cent of our Earth’s surface. We know that our oceans are being damaged by human activity including overfishing, mining and dumping of waste. Together we can protect and restore our oceans.
Plastic waste is accumulating in huge garbage patches that will remain in the oceans for decades or even centuries. The garbage patch in the Pacific Ocean is almost as big as Queensland. There are over 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic floating in the world’s oceans, that’s more than 600 items for every single human alive today.
For decades Queensland’s sugar cane farmers have been throwing money into the creeks and rivers that flow past their properties. That’s the money spent on excess fertiliser that runs off during heavy rain and makes its way to the ocean. It’s estimated that three quarters of nitrogen fertiliser put on cane farms leaches from the soil within a few months of application.
When nitrogen and phosphorus fertiliser enters rivers and ends up in the Reef, it upsets the natural balance of the marine environment. Algae love nitrogen and phosphorus. In a high nutrient environment algae can then become so numerous that the sunlight that normally reaches the sea floor can no longer do so. That means seagrass and other light dependent bottom-dwelling organisms have trouble growing and reproducing. Crown of Thorns starfish that destroy hard corals also love nitrogen and that’s one of the reasons they are in such large numbers on the Reef at present.Read more
It is said that ‘insanity’ is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. We have been told that the next big thing for our region is yet another feasibility study for the Urannah dam. That study will be the 19th attempt since 1967 to shuffle the cards and come up with a winning economic hand.
What is even more irrational is that the Federal Government paid $3 million of taxpayers’ money to have those cards reshuffled. Of course there’s a chance that this time the economic analysis may say something different to the previous 18 attempts. Maybe there’s a way to sell the water from Urannah dam to someone who’s willing to pay enough to recoup the dam’s construction and running costs. The only industry that can do that is mining.Read more
Urannah dam has created many jobs over the years but only in the economics and engineering community. Over the past 50 years 18 studies have been undertaken into the feasibility of the dam by both government and non-government organisations. They have all concluded the same thing, the dam doesn't stack up. So we were surprised when the Federal Government floated the idea it would fund another $3 million feasibility study into the dam.
That feasibility study appears to be going nowhere. Media reports late last year indicate that the consortium that has been awarded the funding is wracked with infighting over how the money would be allocated so no work has been done. The Queensland Government has proposed that the money should be allocated to Sunwater. But when Sunwater last investigated Urannah dam it found the dam to be uneconomic.
The proposed Urannah Dam is located within the Bowen and Broken River catchments, 95km north-east of Mackay adjacent to Eungella National Park. If it went ahead it would be built on land that is currently leased by the Queensland Government to the Urannah Properties Association. It is subject to a native title claim registered by the Widi people in 2006, which covers an area of approximately 5,400 square kilometres. The dam site contains important initiation grounds among other cultural heritage values. The Widi people continue to campaign strongly to retain their native title rights over the land.
Constructing Urannah Dam has been estimated to cost between $250 and $300 million. In 2016 Mackay Conservation Group engaged an engineer, Thomas Williams, to undertake a Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA) of Urannah Dam. He determined that the dam would be uneconomic as it would return only $0.75 for every $1.00 invested. He found that there are cheaper ways to provide water for industrial purposes in the Galilee and Bowen Basins.Read more
The latest Mackay-Whitsunday Waterway Health report card continues to highlight the region’s poor water quality despite years of effort and millions of dollars to clean it up. Regulations will be required to improve water quality and protect the Great Barrier Reef.
The Mackay Whitsunday Healthy Rivers to Reef Partnership which includes members from 22 organisations representing the community, industry, research groups and government has recently released their waterway health report card for the 2014 – 15 year for our region. You can download a copy of the 2015 Report Card hereRead more
ABC News reporter, Mark Willacy, has been investigating the method by which a $3 million grant was made to a Brisbane company to undertake a feasibility study into a dam at Urannah Creek west of Mackay.
Earlier this year MCG engaged an engineer to undertake a review of the previous 18 studies into the possibility of constructing this dam. The review found that non of the previous studies found that the project would generate an economic return.
You can read our full report at: http://bit.ly/2djKZoS
Mackay Conservation Group released a report last week which shows that tens of millions of taxpayer’s dollars will be wasted if the proposed Urannah Dam west of Mackay goes ahead
The report is a review of 17 previous studies into the dam dating back to the 1960s, none of which have provided sufficient evidence to justify a new dam, yet the federal government has recently committed $3 million to an 18th feasibility study of the Urannah Dam proposal.
The report, An Economic Analysis Of The Urannah Dam Project, found that it is most likely that for every $1 spent on the dam, only 75 cents of economic benefit would be returned. Even the most optimistic scenario from previous studies shows that the Urannah Dam would barely break even.
The key findings of the report are:
- The Urannah dam is a more expensive option to deliver water for irrigation, the Galilee basin, and for the Bowen region;
- The Urannah dam is a cheaper option to supply water to the Bowen basin, however, there does not appear to be enough additional demand for water supply to warrant construction of another water source in the near future;
- The Burdekin Falls Dam costs $11.5M per annum less than the proposed Urannah dam at delivering the same economic outcome;
- The Urannah dam provides a return of $0.75 for every dollar invested assuming full consumption of water by agriculture and mining.