Rookwood Weir’s capacity revealed after redesign process
A SOURCE of speculation and political contention, the revised water capacity for Rookwood Weir has finally been revealed as the Queensland Government pushes for the release of federal funding for the project.
When Sunwater was requested to re-scope the project and re-design the weir as an ungated structure and to optimise the yield to keep it within the $352 million approved budget last year, the news was greeted with consternation by the CQ community, with many afraid the originally planned 76,000ML project might be shrunk to the size of a "bathtub".
In a letter shared exclusively with The Morning Bulletin, Queensland's Natural Resources Minister Anthony Lynham wrote to Deputy Prime Minister McCormack this week revealing that the redesigned weir would yield 50,000ML high priority (HP) or 76,000ML medium priority (MP) water.
He said the urban allocation was approximately 19,000ML of HP water comprising of 15,000ML for Gladstone Area Water Board and 4,000ML for the Livingstone Shire Council.
"The irrigation allocation is approximately 25,000ML HP at the weir, which converts to approximately 37,500ML of MP," Dr Lynham said.
"It is recommended that a 6,000 ML HP reserve be retained from sale, with the purpose of the reserve to be determined following further urban water planning in relation to GAWB's water security and sale of the irrigation allocation."
For almost two years, the State and Federal Governments have tried to reach agreement on an unconventional joint partnership where Rookwood Weir's profits, operating costs and risk would be shared.
Partnership discussions were at an impasse, unable to be finalised until the Australian Government had confirmed its support for the re-scoped project once they knew the estimated revised yield and water available for agriculture.
With the requested information now available for scrutiny by the Commonwealth, Dr Lynham hoped his letter to Mr McCormack emphasised the need for the Federal Government to expedite the process of signing off on the partnership agreement to allow the flow of federal funds and the appointment of a major contractor to build the weir.
"Sunwater needs to seal the deal with a project partner mid-year to start construction by April 2021 to meet the current time frame of wet commissioning in January 2024," Dr Lynham said.
After his government had already spent $66 million on moving the Rookwood project forward, Rockhampton MP Barry O'Rourke expressed concern that it might be further delayed if federal funds didn't start flowing soon.
"Time's running out for Central Queensland, and with the COVID-19 crisis, we need this project and the jobs it offers immediately and in the future as Central Queensland recovers," Mr O'Rourke said.
"Without the Federal funding locked in and the partnership arrangements finalised, we're very concerned that Sunwater won't be able to select a project partner by mid-year and this will delay construction."
Keppel MP Brittany Lauga echoed the concerns of her colleagues saying it was "D-Day for Rookwood Weir".
"We recognise that the Prime Minister and many senior Ministers are busy dealing with COVID-19, but this is a matter the Deputy PM could be addressing," Ms Lauga said.
"Minister Lynham has told us that for this project to proceed on time, the Federal Government has to lock in its promises and sign a partnership agreement."
Meanwhile work is underway on the $2.2 million-dollar Capricorn Highway intersection upgrade at Gogango and the $7.5 million upgrade at nearby Thirsty Creek Road.
And the tender for a new Riverslea Bridge is due to be awarded in April.
These projects are funded entirely to date by $66 million from the State Government which forms part of $848 million the government had invested on water infrastructure since 2017, creating 1640 jobs.
Local businesses continue to register their interest to supply goods and services on the project's dedicated web registry.
Nearly 200 Central Queensland businesses have already registered at an https://rookwoodweir.icn.org.au
Full letter from Minister for Natural Resources, Mines and Energy Anthony Lynham
Dear Deputy Prime Minister,
I refer to my letter of 2 October 2019 in relation to the Rookwood Weir project which is to be undertaken by the Australian and Queensland Governments. In this letter I advised you about a change to the scope of the weir to fit within the $352 Million (M) approved budget envelope, and that Sunwater had been requested to re-scope the project and re-design the weir as an ungated structure and to optimise the yield within the committed budget.
The Queensland Government has paid $66M to Sunwater to progress the project, and I am pleased to advise that good progress has been made, with enabling works underway such as the Thirsty Creek road and Gogango intersection upgrades. Commencement of these on-ground works is creating a stronger sense of certainty for the market and in turn is generating enquiries to Sunwater from potential and serious potential agricultural customers.
Late last year Commonwealth officials advised that the draft project implementation agreement (partnership agreement) between the Commonwealth and the State (represented by the
Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy (DNRME)) could not be finalised until the Australian Government had confirmed its support for the re-scoped project - including the estimated revised yield and water available for agriculture.
DNRME provided the revised yield to the Commonwealth officials in December 2019 and it is set out again below with the addition of the demand from the Gladstone Area Water Board (GAWB) which has recently been provided to my department.
Based on a demand from GAWB of 15 000 mega litres (ML) high priority (HP) and Livingstone Shire Council 4000ML HP - the latest yield hydrology associated with the current design full supply level of 45.5 metres Australia Height Datum is set out below.
All water supplied at the weir yields 50 000ML HP or 76 000ML medium priority (MP).
The urban allocation is approximately 19 000ML HP, comprising:
• 15 000ML for GAWB
• 4000ML for the Livingstone Shire Council.
The irrigation allocation is approximately 25 000ML HP at the weir, which converts to approximately 37 500ML of MP.
It is recommended that a 6000 ML HP reserve be retained from sale, with the purpose of the reserve to be determined following further urban water planning in relation to GAWB's water security and sale of the irrigation allocation.
At the above rates, water for agriculture will comprise 50 per cent of the total yield. It could potentially increase to 62 per cent should the reserve (6000ML) ultimately be allocated for irrigation. The proportion for agriculture could further increase to 71 per cent should the HP volumes be available instead as medium priority.
I note that changing the mix of medium priority and high priority, and the location of the demand, both alter the total yield available. However, it is apparent that no matter the mix or location there is significant and majority component of water available for agriculture. I trust this satisfies the Commonwealth's objectives about long term regional economic growth and water for agriculture.
It is my intension to commence a water planning process to amend the Water Plan (Fitzroy Basin) 2011 to settle the volumes and mix of water allocation products in the near future.
Queensland's water planning process is a consultative one that will allow the community and the market to engage in the discussion about volumes and products so that we design the allocation framework to suit the community needs, particularly the agricultural sector.
I am seeking your urgent confirmation of the Australian Government's support for the re-scoped Rookwood Weir project. This will enable officials to finalise the partnership agreement as soon as possible. Sunwater is on track to enter into the alliance for the main weir package by the middle of the year and any delay to finalising the partnership agreement places the project at risk.
If you have any questions, please contact Mr Simon Zanatta, Chief of Staff who will be pleased to assist you and can be contacted on 07 3719 7360.
Dr Anthony Lynham MP
Minister for Natural Resources, Mines and Energy