Concern for platypus population

An Apollo Bay resident is worried about platypus populations in the Barham River.

AN Apollo Bay resident is concerned about platypuses living in the Barham River.

Sandra Wilmink said Barwon Water’s plans to build a pumping station on the river could jeopardise the protected species’ habitat.

“They’re living there, they’re a protected species, so why are we letting them do these things?” Mrs Wilmink said.

Barwon Water has lodged two planning applications with the Colac Otway Shire Council for an Apollo Bay water storage project.

The first application is for a permanent pumping station on Barham River Road, while the second is for a proposed 250-million litre storage basin on land west of Apollo Bay.

Barwon Water capital projects general manager Paul Northey said ecologists had completed a survey and monitoring program to “minimise impacts” on the platypus.

“In addition a management plan is being developed to ensure a platypus colony was protected before, during and after construction of the pump station,” he said.

Mrs Wilmink said she was also concerned the authority’s plans would cost customers too much money, and said an engineer’s 1970s plan for a gravity-fed system was a more sustainable solution.

“The engineer Mr Rooney stated that this could be done on the West Barham about 30 metres above the off-take storage,” Mrs Wilmink said.

“Mr Rooney was an engineer for Apollo Bay Water Works Trust, he had geologists go up with him and they stated then this could be done up there,” she said.

But Mr Northey said a dam on the West Barham River was “not viable”.

“The proponent appears to be basing the claims on 40-year-old data which is not relevant today,” Mr Northey said.

“As explained previously, a dam at least 50 metres high and 300 metres long would be required to meet demand, inundating large tracts of pristine environment,” he said.

“The existing seven-kilometre gravity fed pipeline would need replacing, including sections through environmentally sensitive river beds.

“Independent geotechnical experts have also reported the location is at significant risk of landslides.”

Mr Northey said claims the pump station would be an added expense to ratepayers were incorrect, with Barwon Water allowing for increased electricity costs.

“In fact, the capital cost of an on-stream storage on the West Barham would be almost double that of the basin and pump station,” he said.

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