Daily updates from DANNY DESAL broadcasting from the INQUIRY in Pakenham

Today was truly an ELECTRIFYING day at the Inquiry with 3 hours spent on the power supply options to the desal plant. Danny continues to be worried by the push from other affected groups such as Cardinia Shire and the Power Grid Option Group to either put it underground or build the gas fired power plant on site on the coast. Now Danny fully understands the call to put the power underground but to push for a power plant to be built on the coast smacks a little bit NIMBY perhaps!

Danny starting to get agitated !

Just imagine if all the resources opposing this plant had been focusing on stopping the plant being built in the first place? NO PLANT: NO POWER & NO PIPE! However its clear that the desal plant is being positioned as creating benefits to the local area including the additional power supply that the area needs anyway. Discussions included brown outs that we are all so familiar with and how this will fix it. SP Ausnet may have had plans to upgrade the power anyway but the desal plant has come in over the top so they will likely not be needed. The Agricultural scientist - Raymond Phillips - confirmed that the least impact option on agriculture would be underground and they haven’t measured “intangible” such as dislocation of homestead, or the trauma of intrusion as it’s difficult to put a dollar value on it. Something in life are priceless perhaps??? There was also an admission that perhaps the rehabilitation of land from BassGas has not been up to scratch and better control over contractors and project management could have helped!

Now Danny needs to check but the Government commitment to using recyclable energy does appear to have been further refined or maybe I just missed it in amongst the 1700 pages! The statements today were that the Government has committed to “offsetting the electricity used by the plant & water transfer pipeline” through the purchase of Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs). Further the “required RECs based on electricity consumption NOT generation“. Now if a gas plant is built and it then provides power back to the grid that is not covered by the RECs. Might be nothing but perhaps Danny was looking too hard!

Allan Wyatt - Landscaper Architect - confirmed his recommendation (which isn’t the same as the proponent’s) for installation of steel poles and not the lattice towers on all the above ground areas from Woolamai to Tynong North. They also continue to claim that you won’t be able to make out the desal plant from the “magnificent” view as you come around from Anderson roundabout. Panel member Greg Sharpley did use the term “magnificent” in his question so they do see what we all see. The usual spiel about night lighting that won’t be like what we see tonight from the sample plant and also re-hiding the plant with proper mounding around the site and trees to cover power poles. Danny did feel like the Panel was asking very pertinent questions and really gave the impression that they had seen the area and appreciate the beautiful coast as we do.

Long day not finishing until 6pm and tomorrow they are putting up 4 experts so starting earlier at 9.30am and likely to still run through until 6pm. Danny isn’t dropping off just yet though and hoping you find these updates slightly interesting. Finding the highpoints is hard as they are far and few between.

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Categories: EES panel hearing reports
Posted By: Danny Desal
Last Edit: 22 Oct 2008 @ 08 00 AM

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Danny has to first apologise for the delay in getting DAY 3 out to everyone as it is an exhausting process that I’m sure is designed to simply wear everyone down so they give up in complete desperation and there’s still 12 days to go with the most excruciating day to come. That is, 4 hours of “closing comments” by the Government as proponent on the final day. Yes, that’s right the Government gets a final 4 hours to respond to all the issues raised that might be causing problems with the Panel just to ensure they are left in the right frame of mind!
 
Anyway DAY 3 was a scientists heaven with presentations from Dr. Scott Chidgey / Marine Biologist who further expounded the work from Dr. Kerry Black re the mixing and flushing of Bass Strait as if it is an open ocean environment. Followed by Ian Smales from our ever present consultants BIOSIS Research on Flora & Fauna, marine mammals, birds and reptiles and then importantly by Dr. Michael St John Warne on the toxicity impacts of the discharges from the plant. I’ll also add here that if I have to see the one minute underwater video of just how so much is growing on the intake/outake pipes in WA I think I’ll scream! Enough already of the propoganda videos that show an environment that is absolutely nothing like Bass Strait!
 
Now I’m no scientist but the most telling question was from a member of the community at the very end of the day to Dr Warne as to whether or not they evaluated the impact of the exact chemical mix that this plant will use and, big surprise, NO as they don’t actually know that list as yet since it’s a PPP!  The same recurring theme that has plagued the Inquiry from day 1.
 
Dr Chidgey listed their prioritisation for site selection and it was:
  • mobile sand or mobile gravel
  • sand
  • scoured reef & rubble
  • lower relief reefs
  • extensive, high relief or complex reefs; and
  • substantial seagrass meadows.
When asked where the Wonthaggi site was situated in this list of priorities he clearly responded that it was in the range between “scoured reef & rubble and lower relief reefs”.  Well doesn’t that mean it isn’t in their ideal location as it’s between third and fourth ideal location! He also clearly stated that there “could be impacts on the reef” and he doesn’t necessarily mean the creation of ‘dead zones’ but rather that there will be changes in the community structure. He, like Dr Black repeated how important the diffusers were to minimise impacts so this continues to be a crucial part of their argument.  In case you didn’t know it they are defining the “mixing zone” initially as an area of 700mL x 500mW x 200m inshore from the discharge point but this is still up for further analysis and examination.
 
There appeared some confusion as to the exact location of the intake/outake pipes as questioned by the Inquiry and that they couldn’t precisely tell from various references in the multitude of reports! Good sign that they are watching carefully perhaps?
 
Couple of items I’m going to have to spend some spare time looking for - what recommendations have the consultants made in their reports that the Performance Requirements might not have picked up on?????? Any help appreciated as the Inquiry seems keen to identify them and we can help?
 
Well Day 4 (Tuesday 21/Oct) is looking to be heavily focused on the power issues with a new witness being requested by the Inquiry - Mr Neville Henderson - now appearing first to I think talk in a more general sense about the power connection issues and Stephen Boyle who was to talk about the EMF issues to come later. No doubt the Councils all worried more about how the power looks across their Shire than the big issue - that is, if there’s no plant there’s no power! DUH !
 
Here comes another long week but will try to keep you informed each day and hopefully not toooooo boring!
 

 

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Categories: EES panel hearing reports
Posted By: Danny Desal
Last Edit: 20 Oct 2008 @ 08 59 PM

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 16 Oct 2008 @ 10:23 AM 
It occurs to Danny during DAY 2 just how committed this Government is to ramming this plant through given the fact that they have one Queens Counsel & one Special Counsel PLUS lawyers from Corrs Wesgarth Chambers PLUS DSE reps all over on their table. Watersheds’ representation might be smaller (two) but much fistier and they aren’t on the side of darkness and therefore we try to retain the faith that justice will prevail in the end!
 
Justice, natural justice was the cause for the day with our legal team challenging the fairness of the Government dumping a new 111 page, highly technical report by Dr Kerry Black, on everyone on Tuesday just 24 hours before they put him on the stand. It seems its OK for all of us to have to put our submissions in on time by 30th September but the Government doesn’t have to live by the same rules!  Anyway, the Inquiry agreed that Watershed should have time to actually read the report so Dr Black will be brought back to the Inquiry on our day (29th Oct) for cross examination. I think the Inquiry response was that Watershed had “raised a very fair point”. Blow me down with a feather!
 
The first expert witness for the day was Mr. Greg Finlayson from GHD who managed to say “I can’t answer that” about 24 times during the course of questioning after the presentation that rehashed the same old information. Now we at least have a better understanding of what is the “Reference Project” as compared to ”Variations to the Reference Project” and “Options” !  It appears that the “variations” haven’t been investigated or evaluated to the same extent as the “reference project” but at least more than the “options”. Yet since we don’t know what the final design of the plant will be it’s still up to the bidders which of the three they include in their bid, or something else perhaps!
 
Also became clear that the connections into Westernport Water or South Gippsland Water are not part of the Reference Project and IF they were connected then the region would appear to have to take flouridated water as the chemicals are put into the water prior to it being pushed out into the 85 KM pipe. It’s questionable also whether the $3.1 billion (minimum as we know) even covers any connection to our region so when you next read Mr. Holding saying the desal plant is also for securing our water security then think again!
 
Questions also raised about where the water goes from the transfer pipe if they have to “de-water” (remove the water from the transfer pipe) at some point. Does it go into the rivers OR streams OR back into the ocean after it has been treated with chlorine/flouride etc. Answer - there hasn’t been any real investigation into the environmental impacts of dewatering. Surprised? No.
 
Also interesting to note that yet again the EPA had no questions for either of the expert witnesses. They must know everything already!
 
Keep watching this space and will let you know where to find the reports and more mountains of paper that are distributed each day. It’s clear that if you have any money left to invest these days, put it into printing for Government Inquiries - licence to print and print money!
 
Off to Day 3! 
 
Tags Categories: EES panel hearing reports Posted By: Danny Desal
Last Edit: 16 Oct 2008 @ 09 19 PM

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