Turtle nests stall desal plant

THE community couldn’t stop the desalination plant going ahead at Agnes Water, but the turtles have - albeit temporarily.

Work has stopped on the controversial desalination plant on Springs Road as the official turtle breeding season begins tomorrow and runs through to the end of February next year.

United Utilities Australia, which is overseeing the project, had aimed to have the horizontal directional drilling (HDD) for the offshore installation of intake and discharge pipes completed before the official start of the turtle nesting season.

Although work is almost complete, damage suffered to one of the drills has prevented the drilling being finalised before this week’s deadline.

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority permits and approvals for the construction of the reverse-osmosis desalination plant only allow for work on the beach outside the turtle nesting season.

The State Government is funding about $27 million of the $40m plus project, which was expected to be completed before the new turtle breeding season started.

Local protest group Community Over Desalination (COD) lobbied local, state and federal politicians, claiming the plant was not needed and would devalue the tourist destination’s pristine environment and reputation. Preliminary preparations started in January, with works on the beach starting after the last turtle nesting season.

State Member for Burnett Rob Messenger, a strong advocate for stopping the plant, promised it would be abandoned if the LNP got up at the last state election.

The environmental mitigation measures that govern the project, as stipulated by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, prevent drilling work being conducted during the nesting season from October 1 to February 28, 2011.

Gladstone Regional Council’s Infrastructure Services Director Ross Paroz said additional drilling that is needed to complete the remaining offshore structural works would continue in March.

Mr Paroz said the Agnes Water/Seventeen Seventy Integrated Water Project remained on track for its scheduled August 2011 completion and that no adverse impacts were anticipated as a result of leaving the HDD works in its current position.

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