Plans for new dam washed away
THE controversial Dunoon Dam proposal is likely to be scrapped following the discovery of indigenous sacred sites within the inundation area.
Coupled with recent questions over the project's environmental and financial viability, the latest discovery could be enough to take the project off the board.
Given the cultural and heritage significance of the find, it is unlikely the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage would grant approval for the project if the site is proven to be authentic.
Rous Water is working closely with indigenous groups and stakeholders to best determine how to authenticate the find without infringing cultural sensitivities.
The authority's project reference group met on Tuesday to discuss alternative options currently on the table including re-used water and demand management strategies.
Rous Water chair Phil Silver has already called for the reconsideration of the project, saying just last month that complications were increasing as the project progressed.
"It's clearly a setback so we will be seeking advice from the reference group and government agencies," he said.
"If the dam's not a starter - and that could be for many reasons - then that just puts the emphasis on other viable engineering solutions."
Rous Water general manager Kyme Lavelle said the authority was still considering the cultural heritage impact assessment, but admitted the project had become less viable.
"We need to do more work on it but at this stage it would make it very difficult for the council to proceed," he said, adding that the region's water yield still well exceeded usage and Rous Water was leading the country in demand management.
"There's still a broad myriad of options to consider from storm-water harvesting to desalination.
"The reference group has looked at 15 options so far (and) the majority of those have got up."
The news follows studies that have identified significant areas of high biodiversity that could be lost if the dam went ahead.