Wyangala Dam wall raising: 'Shovels in the ground later this year'

The NSW government says construction to raise the Wyangala Dam wall by 10 metres is set to begin later this year, despite little community engagement to date.

Wyangala Dam wall. Photo Water NSW.

Wyangala Dam wall. Photo Water NSW.

A dam delivery team has been established to oversee the planning and development of the project to increase the dam's water storage by 650 gigalitres and Deputy Premier John Barilaro said on February 3 that there would be "shovels in the ground later this year".

The dam delivery team, which sits within WaterNSW, will be led by a senior WaterNSW director, according to a joint release from Deputy Premier Barilaro and Minister for Water, Property and Housing Melinda Pavey.

The Gazette asked Minister Pavey's office who community members affected by the dam wall raising could contact within that team and when the plans would be made public, but did not receive a response before the deadline.

However, her office did say preliminary planning and investigations had begun and the required environmental impact studies and concept designs would begin in March.

An earlier release from Minister Pavey's office also said, "WaterNSW is developing a community engagement plan to keep local communities, customers and other stakeholders up to date throughout this important project."

It also said, "Regular community information sessions will occur in coming months, with details advertised on the WaterNSW website and via local media outlets. WaterNSW is also fast tracking the expressions of interest process to engage a delivery."

However, a spokesperson from WaterNSW told the Gazette in October that community engagement was supposed to begin before the end of 2019.

Upper Lachlan Shire Council is currently waiting on a response after contacting Deputy Premier Barilaro's office in December to find out when detailed investigation and stakeholder engagement for the dam wall raising would commence.

However, the council did say WaterNSW was meeting with councillors and staff to address the issue in a closed meeting on February 18.

Landowners, Grabine Lakeside State Park, Reflections Holiday Park, Grabine Road and the Bigga Fishing Club hut on Foggs Crossing Road could all be threatened by a new high water level, according to an unofficial map created by Weddin Mapping Solutions.

Bigga Fishing Club president Warwick Picker said the club had not yet been contacted by WaterNSW or either minister.

Reflections Holiday Parks CEO Steve Edmonds, however, told the Gazette in January that the company was working with the WaterNSW director to understand the impact to its cabins at Grabine Lakeside and Wyangala Waters on the edge of Wyangala Dam.

"I can't say too much about that at this stage, but we have been working with the director in charge from WaterNSW and we've had very positive communications and strategy sessions. So I'm very confident we'll get a good outcome there. I don't think people should be too nervous about that," Mr Edmonds said.

The appointment of the dam delivery team follows the state government's October commitment of $650 million to raise the wall and passing of legislation to fast track the project in November.

The additional water is meant to ensure water security and flood management in the Lachlan Valley and support irrigated agriculture in Cowra, Forbes, Condobolin and Hillston.

Minister Pavey said the new dam delivery team would be critical to delivering the government's priority dam projects, which also include Dungowan and Mole River.

"NSW is experiencing the worst drought on record and the Government is focusing its efforts on infrastructure to ensure greater resilience now and into the future.

"This appointment coincides with plans to advance the start of community consultation."

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