UNANSWERED questions dominate the concerns of Reids Flat farmers who stand to lose their most productive country should the Wyangala Dam wall be raised.
They say their only community consultation sessions hosted by WaterNSW on September 16 verged on absurd, in that fundamental information about the project was not available.
Government representatives were asked where the new inundation line would fall on properties. There was no answer.
WaterNSW said modelling work was currently ongoing to determine inundation levels for individual properties and should be completed by the end of the year.
John Webster, Eurimburra, whose Webster Pastoral Co stands to lose almost 500 hectares of developed river flats should the wall be raised, said he originally found out about the project in October 2018 on social media.
Mr Webster later heard the project had been "fast tracked", but was yet to be notified his land would be affected.
The government in November last year passed legislation allowing critical water infrastructure projects to be treated as state significant priorities.
In just weeks work will begin on moving Reflections Holiday Park out of harm's way.
That is apparently the first major work in preparation for the raising of the dam wall by 10 metres.
The project seems politically predestined to go ahead if announcements are anything to go by.
On Sunday Deputy Prime Minister and National Party leader Michael McCormack said the federal government had decided to chip in $325 million for the project.
New water infrastructure is a step closer today with the Australian Government doubling its cash contribution for the Wyangala & Dungowan Dam projects, providing an extra $283.5m.— Michael McCormack (@M_McCormackMP) September 20, 2020
Supporting regional Australia.@Barnaby_Joyce@Kevinandersonmp@melindapaveyMP@StephCookeMPpic.twitter.com/sWLpoasbbJ
The total cost is put at $650 million.
A spokesman for WaterNSW said stage one would begin next month, being the relocation of the caravan park, which would then become "temporary accommodation" for workers extending the dam wall.
DAVID and Lou Crawford, Numby, have a spread of more than 3000ha that spans either side of the Lachlan River. They have a home on one side with sealed road access that is passable during flood events, but the majority of their land is on the other side. They're looking at being cut off. The biggest frustration, says Mr Crawford, is a lack of consultation.
"The modelling is not finished and so there is nothing you can fight against with facts," he said.
The project was referred to the federal Agriculture, Water and Environment Ministry on June 22 this year.
It triggers the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act and must be assessed by the environment department.
Hovell's Ck Landcare Group chairman Gordon Refshauge said there were a dozen endangered species living in the Reids Flat area, including the superb parrot.
Dr Refshauge said it was ironic years of work by Landcare and land currently under biodiversity conservation agreements would be flooded.
By the sides of the roads leading into Reids Flat, flood warning signs have been set aside until the next major rain event. It was about three weeks ago Wyangala Dam shot from 9 per cent of capacity to 60pc.
JOHN and Kerri Webster watched as ensuing floods backed up near their home.
Within 24 hours the water had subsided and their winter crops had survived.
What concerns them is the rain event occurred when the dam was virutally empty.
"What happens if the dam is full," asked Mr Webster, "how long will it take for that water to clear?"
MICHAEL and Jane Corkhill, Dryburgh, stand to lose their home, an 800-tonne grain complex and a 1000-bale hay shed.
Flooding three weeks ago came close, but with the dam wall raised Mr Corkhill reckons the 1928 home will be inundated, as will highly productive river flats and infrastructure
The big question for the seven major landholders to be injuriously affected is who will benefit from this project.
Consensus among them at an ad hoc meeting on Monday was that it would be corporate irrigators and mining companies.
John Webster's father, David, has spent his life working country around Reids Flat and witnessed the construction of Wyangala Dam.
He said while there will be major agricultural holdings affected there were many small blocks that will be inundated.
Asked for a response to landholders' concerns WaterNSW said extensive stakeholder sentiment research suggested great support locally for the project.
How water would be allocated was one concern.
Surveys suggested 4 per cent of people surveyed were strongly opposed to the project.
A spokesman for WaterNSW said it had met with more than 65 landholders around the Wyangala Dam to provide information about the project to raise the dam wall.
"WaterNSW has discussed with landholders preliminary information about the partial inundation of properties in this area," the spokesman said.
There would also be online information webinars in October to provide information to broader community members.
"Investigation work and modelling to provide more detailed information about the inundation levels for individual properties is continuing," the spokesperson said.
"WaterNSW has met with most impacted landholders and encourages people to contact the project team if they have any questions."
Have you signed up for The Land morning briefing? You can register free below. Each weekday morning you'll receive the latest in NSW agriculture.