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Yes to dam, with 1200 conditions

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CRUNCH time moved a step closer for the Traveston Crossing dam proposal yesterday, with conditional approval announced by Queensland's Co-ordinator-General.

COG Colin Jensen imposed 1200 conditions on the proposal, which has a scheduled starting date in 2013.

Read more about the Traveston Crossing dam proposal.

Premier Anna Bligh and Infrastructure Minister Stirling Hinchliffe announced the state approval yesterday, with Mr Jensen's report now on its way to federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett, who has final say on environmental issues.

Mr Jensen handed over his report at 11am.

It includes a fishway and turtle bypass system for the endangered Mary River turtle, Mary River cod and lungfish, the restoration and protection of about 2000ha of riparian vegetation, and a $10 million project to protect, create and rehabilitate habitat elsewhere in the Mary River catchment.

Mr Jensen's report also recommends the government reconsider a planned stage two which would expand the dam in 2036.

Ms Bligh said the conditions would make it the "greenest" dam in Australia, but acknowledged that Mary Valley residents would not be happy with the decision.

That may be the only point on which she achieved agreement from Gympie state MP David Gibson and Wide Bay federal MP Warren Truss, who both strongly criticised the decision.

Their concerns were backed by WWF spokesperson Nick Heath, who said the dam would have “tremendous consequences for the environment” and was not the best water resource solution.

Wide Bay Burnett Conservation Council vice-president Roger Currie said he doubted the conditions, including fishways, would work to the benefit of endangered species.

Ms Bligh said the dam would be a tourism hot spot and anticipated “a prompt decision” from Mr Garrett.

MS Bligh said opponents of the dam needed “to understand that over the next two decades South East Queensland is likely to grow to more than four million people.

“We simply have to provide them with water, and this is the best possible and most cost-effective source of that water.”

Ms Bligh said the dam would be positive for the region, protecting degraded land and vulnerable species.

She said 85 per cent of the affected land had already been cleared and degraded through agricultural and mining use.

“The science backs the proposition that this dam, with the mitigating conditions, may in fact give some of these species and the habitat their best chance of recovery from the activities of human beings over the last century,” she said.

The dam would also provide a recreation spot that could become a “tourism mecca” for the region, she said.

Mr Heath said that no matter what so-called “green” conditions were included, the dam would block “a major artery”.

Retrofitting water tanks and other devices would be a better way of delivering more water to the south east.

Mr Currie said the dam would have a negative impact on tourism.

“The dam would interfere with fresh water flow from the Mary River into (the Great Sandy Strait) ... which is a humpback whale sanctuary and is quite an extensive recreational and fishing area,” Mr Currie said.

“The river keeps the (wetlands) alive, which is a major source of tourism for the Fraser Coast.”

Mr Gibson said the dam had now reached the stage which Ms Bligh falsely claimed on September 13.

He said he welcomed the progress but called on the Rudd government to “properly and fully consider the project.

“The number of conditions now imposed by the COG already casts doubt that the Traveston Crossing dam is the most effective supply for (future) water needs.

“The Federal Government must now give the community and experts a chance to comment on this report to determine if the conditions already imposed need to be expanded further.

“The onus is now on Mr Garrett to open this project up to more public scrutiny.”

Mr Truss said Mr Garrett now “faces his biggest environmental test.

“All that stands in the way of the dam and the fate of the endangered Mary River Cod, Mary River turtle, giant barred frog, the vulnerable Queensland lungfish, the Ramsar listed Great Sandy Straits and the entire Mary Valley is Peter Garrett,” he said.

Ms Bligh said the COG's conditions would protect and restore those species.

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Read even more about the Traveston Crossing dam.

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