An assurance from MidCoast Council to investigate the relocation of the outlet of the proposed desalination plant in the Wallamba River has gone some way to appeasing the fears of Wallis Lake Fishermen's Co-op.
At a meeting on Friday, January 10 with MidCoast Council representatives, oyster growers and fish farmers outlined their concerns for the future of the fishing industry and the health of the Wallamba River.
Council has now given a commitment it would immediately investigate revising the current planning for the project to allow relocation of the outlet to at least 100 metres south of the original site.
In the meantime both parties are looking to the skies, hoping the much promised rain makes an appearance before March.
"If we get rain in the catchment areas between now and March council have assured us they will not need to turn the desalination plant on and would then remove the plant but leave the pipe work for future needs," Wallis Lake Fishermen's Co-op operations manager, Suzie McEnallay said.
"However, there is no guarantee of rain reaching us."
"While we understand the urgency for water in the area, it cannot be at the detriment of the river, it already has an increased salinity level due to the effects of the drought and we do not need it to be manually elevated by the addition of this brine." she said.
If we get rain in the catchment areas between now and March council have assured us they will not need to turn the desalination plant on and would then remove the plant but leave the pipe work for future needs.Suzie McEnallay
Mrs McEnallay said placing a desalination plant in the river system was not ideal.
"It should be in the ocean. We have not found evidence of there ever being a desalination plant in an estuary anywhere, only the ocean."
"We certainly understand the devastating impact that this prolonged drought has had and continues to have on our businesses and rural economy," MidCoast Council infrastructure and engineering services director, Rob Scott said.
"We are conscious of this but we still have to manage our water supplies through the worst drought on record" he said.
Council last week announced it would fast-track the development of a temporary desalination plant at the Nabiac Aquifer water supply plant near Darawank so that it would be able to meet the demand should there be no rainfall between now and March 2020.
With no end in sight to the prolonged dry spell which has gripped the area for more than 12 months, council made the decision to develop the plant .
With the planning work we have already done and construction underway, we're on track to commission the temporary desalination plant by March 2020, Mr Scott said.
As a council we've invested in rehabilitation of this waterway over the years and we certainly don't want to undo any of the good work that's already been done.Rob Scott
Following the meeting, Mr Scott said council recognised the area was important for the commercial fishing industry and it was happy to relocate the site further downstream into a shallower area of the river.
"As a council we've invested in rehabilitation of this waterway over the years and we certainly don't want to undo any of the good work that's already been done."
Mr Scott explained the reject water was approximately 1.6 times the concentration of seawater.
This is not brine, which is like liquid salt, he said.
He said the process which would be used by council was different from larger, permanent plants.
"We had a good exchange of information; it was good to harness their local knowledge."
Mr Scott said if council did construct a permanent desalination plant in the future, reject water would undoubtedly be directed back to the ocean.
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