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New dam proposed for Mount Buller to boost snowmaking and drinking water supply

Date

Darren Gray

Mount Buller has 'significant constraints' on its water supply.

Mount Buller has 'significant constraints' on its water supply.

A dam able to hold 100 million litres of water would be built on Mount Buller to boost the resort's snowmaking capability and fresh water supply, under a proposed $8.25 million project before authorities.

In documents submitted to the Federal Environment Department in recent days, the dam is described as the "most appropriate option" for meeting the resort's peak drinking water and snowmaking "water demands". It is considered superior to eight other options that were reviewed such as the use of groundwater, pumping from the Howqua or Delatite rivers, and the use of collected stormwater.

A preferred site has been chosen for the proposed 100 million-litre dam, with aerial photographs suggesting it would be about 800 metres from the western edge of Mount Buller village, at an elevation of about 1700 metres.

For comparison, the smallest dam in Melbourne's metropolitan water supply network, O'Shannassy, is vastly bigger and can hold a maximum of 3123 million litres. The new dam proposed for the resort would be smaller than some Victorian farm dams.

According to documentation submitted to the department the proposed dam and its associated infrastructure would be built in the resort's 2015-16 "summer works program", between October, 2015 and May, 2016. "More than one hectare of native vegetation would be removed" during the project, and "offsets" for native vegetation removal would be required, the documentation reveals.

In a discussion about threatened species and ecological communities the report acknowledged that the mountain pygmy-possum was "well known to occur on Mount Buller" but no more than occasionally on the dam site.

John Huber, chief executive officer of the Mount Buller Mount Stirling Alpine Resort Management Board, said that if approved the project would be undertaken in a manner that minimised the impact on the environment.

Mr Huber said Mount Buller had "significant constraints" on its water supply. "We're located on the top of a mountain, which means that there's limited catchment from nearby to catch and store water," he said.

"In completing the water storage project we want to ensure a secure and sustainable water supply for both snowmaking and potable supply for the resort. And in doing that, one it actually is about protecting the economic viability of the resort, but also its significant contribution to the regional economy,’’ he said.

Asked if the project had been proposed because of the potential future impacts of climate change, he said: "I would say we're doing it to ensure that we have a consistent and a reliable product. And there's a lot of cycles involved and some of those cycles fall under the cycles of climate change, but what we're trying to do is take out the troughs."

To go ahead, the project needs a nod of approval from three government departments.

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