Friends of Grasslands
supporting native grassy ecosystems
PO Box 987
Civic Square ACT 2608
Phone: 02 62.. ....
ACTEW Corporation Pty Ltd
GPO Box 366
Canberra City ACT 2601
Dear Mr Sullivan
Murrumbidgee to Googong Water Transfer project
Friends of Grasslands (FOG) is a community group dedicated to the conservation of natural temperate grassy ecosystems in south-eastern Australia. FOG advocates, educates and advises on matters to do with the conservation of grassy ecosystems, and carries out surveys and other on-ground work. FOG is based in Canberra and its more than 200 members include professional scientists, landowners, land managers and interested members of the public.
Because of its impact on high quality natural temperate grasslands and box-gum woodlands, FOG has an interest in the environmental impact of this project. FOG attended one of the information sessions and has made submissions to both the ACT government and the Department of the Environment, Water Heritage and the Arts when they invited public comment on the project.
Recently, FOG has been approached by one of the landholders along the Williamsdale Road who has box-gum woodland and an area of secondary themeda grassland on his block that will be affected by this project. FOG understands that ACTEW has already dug three holes on the property as part of the preliminary project work, filled in these holes and rehabilitated them by seeding with some sort of grassy mix (the landholder was unaware of the species in this mix).
FOG notes that “The pipeline construction process would restore native topsoil so that following construction the site alignment can be rehabilitated, with the existing floristics restored to original condition” (Section 13.3.2 of part C of the EIA). In inspecting the three rehabilitation areas, FOG noted the presence of rye grass (an exotic grass), which was evident no where else in the surrounding grassland and woodland. As well, the restoration work was not of particularly good quality and raises concerns about the quality of future rehabilitation if the project goes ahead. After six months growth it was difficult to tell what other grasses were present in the rehabilitation areas, and if all of these were already present on the property.
FOG’s understanding is that one area of the proposed pipeline easement on this property was classified as non-native pasture. However, FOG was unable to locate any specific area along the easement that was not predominately native vegetation, and in fact not box-gum woodland. In total, FOG identified over 70 native species of native grasses, forbs, shrubs and trees along or near the proposed easement. The vegetation structure was good; while a few woody and herbaceous weeds were present these could be easily managed.
Section 13.3.2 of part C of the EIA states that “Where the alignment passes through the few areas of good quality remnant vegetation the construction corridor would be reduced and the area of disturbance restricted to a narrow band. Wherever possible the pipeline alignment would avoid mature trees”. The landholder was not clear on the exact boundary of the construction easement. In view of the quality of the native vegetation, FOG would like to see the working easement reduced to 15m if possible, and certainly less than the 40m advised to the landholder. In FOG’s view, issues such as the exact boundary of the working easement and the impact of the scour valve and air vent (also to be placed on the property) should be resolved with the landholder before he is expected to sign an agreement to your acquisition of the land. As well, the landholder should be advised about the details of the proposed rehabilitation plan for the construction corridor, particularly in light of the introduction of an exotic grass to the property during the rehabilitation already undertaken.
FOG sees the Murrumbidgee to Googong water transfer development, if it goes ahead, as an opportunity for ACTEW to undertake mitigation activities appropriately and in a way that results in no degradation of good quality native grasslands and box-gum woodlands. However, given what has happened in the above case, FOG has some concerns about the quality of rehabilitation of the working easement in these good quality areas and also about how restricted the working easement will actually be in such areas. The landholder (and, we understand, others in similar situations) is concerned about the impact of the project on his property, but appears to be having difficulties in getting these concerns adequately addressed.
If you would like to discuss this any further, please contact Naarilla Hirsch (FOG advocacy coordinator) on 6288 2413 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
14 December 2009