Clarence proposal must be opposed

Ed, Ever since the Bradfield Scheme in 1933 suggested turning Queensland rivers westwards, there have been proposals to divert Clarence River waters as well. Toowoomba Council wants the Local Government Association to debate the matter at its national conference in June. This echoes pressure over the years from the Murray-Darling Association for a diversion to the Murray-Darling Basin. Every study since 1933 has shown that the scheme is just not feasible. The costs would be inordinate and the benefits negligible. The Healthy Rivers Commission concluded in 1999 that ‘any proposal to divert substantial quantities of water from the Clarence would present significant risks to the health of riverine ecosystems and those activities and values dependent on them’. It would cripple the fishing industry on the Clarence, an industry worth over $200 million a year, while recreational fishing is one of the great attractions for tourists. According to the Clarence Professional Fisherman’s Association, fisheries management has three basic rules: habitat, habitat and habitat. We risk that at our peril. Just look at what has happened to the Snowy River. The diversion of its waters has seen the sea intrude many kilometres upstream. The Clarence is salt beyond Grafton as it is. How much further upstream do we want saline water to go? Allowing aquatic plants and animals to move from their native catchments to the other side of the range risks upsetting the ecological balance of the river. It’s not just a question of keeping ‘our water’, it’s all to do with keeping the Clarence healthy. The local environment and the local economy are vitally dependent on the river. The river’s natural flow regime is never wasteful. Floods rejuvenate ecosystems, especially the floodplains and wetlands, ‘freshes’ expand habitat and provide food sources vital for breeding, and the low flows are needed to prevent those species which do best in stable conditions from dominating and creating an imbalance. The fishing industry, the farmers and the tourist industry all have a real concern for the future of the Valley if the waters of the Clarence are diverted. The proposal must be opposed. Ros Woodward Valley Watch Inc.