General

Forest fight still raging

The controversial $80 million Southern Forests Irrigation Scheme (SFIS) is dividing WA’s south west community. The plan is to build a reservoir and 250km pipeline network, that will draw water from the Donnelly River that runs through a karri forest.

The Environmental Protection Authority will be calling for public comment on the proposal between December 2020 and February 2021.

According to Southern Forests Irrigation Co-operative Ltd, the scheme is an irrigation system designed to deliver a reliable source of water to farmers in the South West. It proposes the construction of a reservoir fed from the Donnelly River to assist with climate adaption for decades to come.

However, Greens WA MLC Diane Evers, said “It can’t just go ahead. I’m really hoping that the State Government makes its decision to not allow it to go ahead.”

She added that the scheme is a bad environmental idea that in the end won’t work.

Google Map showing the location of the Donnelly River

Ms Evers also criticised that the scheme for being too expensive and said all tax payers will be paying for it.

She is also very concerned about the conservation of Stewart tree in the Donnelly catchment area, which is the tallest tree in Western Australian and the tallest Karri tree in the world in the area.

Even though there are many different opinions about whether the scheme is going to work or not, Southern Forest Irrigation Co-operative Ltd claims on its website that climate adaption is part of the required response to climate change, and the scheme “enables responsible for climate change for our region”.

Video of Donnelly area karri trees provided by John Kilrain

Trevor Whittington, the CEO of the Western Australian Farmers Federation, said his organisation supports irrigated agriculture and the building of dams on public and private land.

Mr Whittington also added that WAFarmers supports a science-based process.

Ms Evers disagreed and said: “It is not desired by most of people in that area, it is just the 68 farmers who agree to put money on the scheme.”

Vice President of the WA Water Users Coalition John Kilrain has opposed the scheme since the beginning and explained why.

He said: “We made it clear, we don’t want the Southern Forests Irrigation Scheme.”

John Kilrain on the SFIS

However, Mr Kilrain agreed that something need to be done. He said we need better management of our water resources as the Donnelly stopped flowing for more than 120 days last year.

Photo supplied by John Kilrain

Minister for Water Dave Kelly said: “The EPA will provide its recommendations to the Minister for Environment when it has completed its assessment.”

Minister for Water Dave Kelly

While he told us in an email: “Anyone with concerns about the proposed scheme is encouraged to participate in the EPA’s public consultation process once it opens.”

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