Orange City Council’s plan to build a wetland in East Orange to expand the city’s stormwater harvesting scheme is “not likely” to have a significant adverse impact on the environment downstream, according to a new report.
The report of an independent consultant has found the “construction and operation of the (wetland) is not likely to result in a significant adverse impact.”
The draft Review of Environment Factors is now on public exhibition for community comment and the Council has begun a series of community meetings to explain details of the proposal. A meeting has been held with downstream water users and a community information session will also be held. Download link below.
Orange Mayor Reg Kidd is encouraging local residents to find out more about the project.
“Orange’s stormwater harvesting system is an Australia-first project that has attracted attention from across Australia and around the world,” Cr Reg Kidd said. “Even during the drought this system proved itself to be a steady source of water.”
“But Orange is growing and the proposed new wetland is one of the ways the Council is planning to deal with that growth.
“Our Ploughmans Creek system has a series of constructed wetlands. These wetlands slow down the water, help to clean it and even out the peaks and troughs in the water flow from storms. Now we want to do the same thing with Orange’s other watercourse, Blackmans Swamp Creek.
“We’re proposing to build a new wetland alongside Jilba St and the bypass. When we have storms like we’ve seen this week, there’s a huge flow in Blackmans Creek, and we can pump for our stormwater harvesting system. But once that peak has passed, the creek returns to normal.
“By letting peak water flows from a storm run through a wetland, we’ll be able to pump more often into our storage dams, but there’ll also be better flows downstream more often.”
The deadline for community comments in Monday 26 April. Orange City Council will consider a report on any community comments when it considers the project at a meeting.
The Wetlands project is still to gain approval for government authorities, and the Review of Environmental Factors will be part of that process.
Work can’t begin until the Natural Resource Access Regulator issues a Water Supply Works Approval under the Water Management Act 2000 and DPI Fisheries issue a permit under the Fisheries Management Act 1994. Work also won’t start until the contractor undertaking the earthworks has secured an Environmental Protection Licence from the Environment Protection Authority under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997, and Council has approved a Construction Environmental Management Plan (CEMP).
The consultant found that : “Construction impacts will be transitory and can be managed to protect water quality and public amenity. Post construction, and as the landscaping and amenities across the precinct become established, the ecological, cultural, educational and recreational values in the locality will be enhanced with benefits for the community.”
The report finds that it’s “not likely” there will be a significant adverse downstream impact because:
- Low flows in Blackmans Swamp Creek will continue to be protected;
- There is no need or intent to change the current operating rules that regulate the existing Blackmans Swamp Creek Stormwater Harvesting Scheme;
- The (wetland) will enhance Council’s capacity to provide the licensed environmental flow releases into Summer Hill Creek from Suma Park Dam;
- Spills from Suma Park Dam into Summer Hill Creek will be more frequent as a result of the wetland; and
- The wetland will be subject to monitoring, reporting and adaptive management as part of the Orange Raw Water Supply Operation Environmental Management Plan (OEMP). This management plan incorporates a decision making framework that sets out specific actions that may be required to be implemented in order to reduce impacts identified as a result of the required monitoring. Council is required to implement reasonable and feasible mitigation measures where the need for action is identified through the monitoring programs. One of the specific objectives of the approved Adaptive Management Strategy forming part of the OEMP is to determine if environmental flow releases maintain or enhance the key values of water quality, aquatic biodiversity, river health and the general ecological condition of Summer Hill Creek. These requirements are visible and enforceable and provide the capacity, science and obligation for Council to operate the wetland in a manner that avoids a significant downstream impact.
The wetland proposal has also been the subject of field studies, community consultation and workshops. While the wetland is principally for stormwater harvesting, Orange City Council has also engaged with the neighbourhood around the wetland site to incorporate features that would provide broader ecological, cultural, educational and recreational benefits for the community.