National engineering firm SMEC will lead a consortium of Townsville businesses to undertake a $2.2 million study for the proposed Hells Gates Dam on the Burdekin River.
The group includes local engineering firm UDP, consulting firm Brazier Motti and economic consultants AEC.
They will commence the 12-month detailed feasibility study immediately.
The study will determine if the dam, which would be located on the Burdekin River north-west of Townsville, is feasible on an engineering, environmental and economic basis. It is funded under the Federal Government’s National Water Infrastructure Development Fund, with Townsville Enterprise acting as project managers.
UDP managing director Pat Brady said he was confident that the local team supporting SMEC was of the highest calibre, and proved that Townsville had the experience and skills necessary to contribute to the project.
He said that, like the Joint Water Taskforce, it was important that locals played an integral role in determining our own future.
“We have to get it right, because we have to live with the results every day,” Mr Brady said
Townsville Enterprise chief executive officer Patricia O’Callaghan said Hells Gates Dam would be a project of national importance and could open the way for large-scale irrigated agriculture and electricity generation in the region west of Townsville.
“We’re very pleased to have SMEC on board to determine if a business case exists to fund the dam’s construction,” Ms O’Callaghan said.
“SMEC is a global leader in assessing large-scale infrastructure developments and has a track record stretching all the way back to the original Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme.
“The company has a long association with Townsville and the North Queensland region and undertook some of the original preliminary studies into Hells Gates. The company will use local expertise wherever possible during the course of the study.”
Chair of the Project Leadership Group for Hells Gates, Joe Carey, said the project was an exciting initiative that aligned to the Northern Australia Agenda.
But it was important to recognise that, if constructed, Hells Gates Dam would not provide an immediate solution to Townsville’s water security issues.
“Hells Gates is a project of national significance, which if proven feasible, will be larger than the Lower Burdekin Scheme and would potentially double the area under irrigation for the whole of Northern Australia”, said Mr Carey.
“A dam at Hells Gates may form part of an urban water supply option for Townsville in the longer term and this will certainly be looked at as part of the study – but its primary purpose and opportunity is around large-scale agricultural development such as sugar cane.
“A variety of options are being considered to improve water security for Townsville and this includes a second pipeline from the Burdekin Dam, which would be a more immediate solution for Townsville.”
SMEC regional manager Graeme Pollock said the company was proud to be leading a consortium of local businesses to deliver this project of national significance.
“SMEC is very excited to be delivering this significant project with Townsville Enterprise and we have specifically partnered with leading local businesses to not only achieve the project objectives but provide high level expertise in areas such as cropping analysis, water resource modelling, environmental assessments and economic analysis which will be key to achieving the project deliverables,” Mr Pollock said.