However, the final decision on whether the project will go ahead rests with former Australian Conservation Foundation president turned federal environment minister Peter Garrett.
On Friday, Queensland co‑ordinator general Colin Jensen handed the federal government a draft set of plans for the $1.5 billion Traveston Dam project on Mary River.
Mr Jensen included environmental safeguards in the draft report.
Landholders and conservation groups from Mary Valley – who only learned of the approval from the media on Sunday – say the dam will destroy already endangered wildlife and important habitats, and wipe out farmers’ livelihoods.
But premier Anna Bligh’s government is committed to the dam as a key plank of its strategy to safeguard the southeast corner’s water supply through drought years.
“I know that there are many people who are opposed to this dam,” Ms Bligh said in Brisbane.
“But this part of Queensland, the south east corner, is the fastest‑growing part of Australia and, quite simply, it needs water if it’s going to survive and thrive.”
Ms Bligh disputed comments the dam would endanger wildlife.
She said there was evidence the dam would help preserve wildlife with new environmental safeguards.
The new measures include increasing vegetated areas from 260 hectares to more than 2000ha over 20 years, islands and sand refuges for Mary River turtles and fencing habitat areas to restrict grazing.
“This dam still requires federal approval and cannot proceed without it,” Ms Bligh said.
“But it has now taken a most significant step forward with news the co‑ordinator general has given it the green light, with some very tough green conditions.
“This will make this dam the greenest dam ever built in Australia.”
Save the Mary River Coordinating Group spokeswoman Glenda Pickersgill said members were outraged at the decision.
Ms Pickersgill disputed the costings of $1.5 billion and said the dam would not produce the 70,000 megalitres of water per year the government said it would.
“We love our country up here and we want to protect it and we want to protect the species that are here,” she said. “We will work to overturn the decision to dam the Mary River.”
Mr Garrett has 30 business days to make a decision on the final report, which will be handed to him after the state government’s draft report, but he can request an extension, Mr Garrett’s spokesman said.
If approved, construction could start in the new year.
The fight has been almost four years of uncertainty for residents and concerned parties.
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