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Snowy River - selfish Murray River irrigators downstream continue to castrate the Snowy River

OUR (STOLEN) SNOWY RIVER

"Gone are the days
When the Snowy was a river not just a creek.
When the snow water flushed out the entire river.
When the river was deep enough to take large sized boats and ships.
When as a youngster I had picnics on the Curlip paddle-steamer up and down the Snowy River.
When the river bank had several landings to load and unload goods and produce.
When the entrance was deep enough to be safe for all who wished to use it.

The Snowy is just like a ship that has run aground.
Both are no longer able to do what was required of them.

Having lived in Orbost - Marlo all my life
It's a sad sight to see our Snowy water vanish over the hills to the other side."

- bush poem by W. B. Dreverman, born Orbost 12-1-1910.


PS. I have worked in Orbost all my life; moved from Orbost to Marlo during 1965; now retired; my wife and I enjoy looking at the ocean and the Snowy when the tide comes in. During our lives we have seen the Snowy change from a beautiful river to a sandy bottom creek.



Account by Charlie Roberson, born in 1919 at Dalgety:

"I lived one kilometre from the Snowy River for most of my life. We could always hear the Snowy singing from home. That is how I used to describe the sound of the river. It used to be quieter in the summer. Now we don't hear it at all. You wouldn't know there was a river there now.

It was a clear river most of the time, 99 per cent pure. It's hard water now. Before it was soft. The river had a gravelly sandy bed with rocks and boulders but they're overgrown now and you can't see them. During the spring thaw it used to flow for three months at least in a good strong flow, bank to bank. The level used to be up into the first ring on the pylon for that period."

...It was a very popular river for fishing. You could see the fish from the bridge. You could just about get to the river anywhere you wanted with some exceptions. Now you can hardly get to it for the weeds, willows and blackberries. When the river was dammed there was nothing to fish. There was no fish in the dams just after they were built. I have been up there and it doesn't interest me at all, especially when you've spent much of your life fishing the river. It's a different kind of fishing all together. I used to fish at night for native fish. They are all gone now. I gave up fishing when they dammed the river. "

Account by Pip Cogan, born in 1913 at Dalgety and resident 85 years, a grazier:

"The Snowy River was part of my life until it was dammed. I had fished the river since I was a young felloaction against the NSW Government for failing to honour a five-year review of the Snowy Hydro Corporation's water licence. The Alliance is arguing the legal provisions allowing the Mowamba water flow to be increased without compensationary payments.

It is clear from reading the Snowy Scientific Committee's three reports so far that the Snowy upper reaches are sick, despite the $425 million agreement in 2002 by three governments to restore it.

Sacrificed long ago to humanity's needs for hydroelectricity and irrigation water for the Murray Darling food bowl, in drought the river has become so deprived of lusty water flow that its cobbles do not turn over. Its deep pools alienate life forms, forbiddingly hot on top and cold on the bottom.

Last month the scientific committee warned the NSW Government that the limited environmental flows allowed from Snowy Hydro dams provide mere ''life support'' for plants and animals in the river."

The continued demise of the magnificent Snowy River is attributed to the political influence of the long downstream self-interested rice growers, cotton growers and citrus and grape growers, all wholly artifically dependent on irrigation from the Murray River, fed by the Snowy River upstream.

But such exploitive irrigation-dependent industries have powerful political friends like the Australian Government Rural Industries Research and Dever the way that it was and it to look at it today is simply heartbreaking."



Account by Kevin Schaefer, born 1925 at Dalgety, resident for 73 years:

"The Snowy River was a real river. In the spring the river flowed very strong after the snow melt. This strong flow existed for many months, usually from August to November. Whilst the spring was characterised by strong flows, the Snowy River could have heavy flows or flooding any time of the year.

For example the biggest flood in my lifetime occurred in the summer of 1934. All the mountain water came down here. The Snowy River's water was clean and pure. In fact when you drank it, you couldn't get enough of it.

I can remember the years between 1949 and 1956 as being particularly wet, with a peak in river flow in March 1950 when it flooded. The river could rise and fall all year round depending on the rainfall. In my lifetime I never saw the river any where near as low as it has been since the damming.
...I haven't seen the platypus like I used to. You could see colonies of platypus along the river before. Now you're lucky to see one."



The Snowy River Alliance down here in Victoria is right. Australia's most famous wild river, the Snowy River, deserves to have its natural flows restored.

The Alliance argues that if the Hydro schemers release just a third of the Snowy's original flows, its ecology could be restored. But the current life sucking 5% dished out by the Snowy Hydro Ltd corporation is exploitative, selfish and wrong.

The Snowy River Alliance, according to Glenice White of Orbost deep in Victoria's East Gippsland, started off back in 1971 as a reaction to the Snowy's "pronounced signs of degradation." This local community reaction culminated in the Snowy River Interstate Catchment Co-ordinating Committee Report, which outlined the problems of the river and its catchment and made a number of recommendations including that more water was required to improve the river's ecology.

It soon became apparent to the Snowy River community that the Snowy Hydro was steering the river's water to the irrigation agriculturalists down the Murray River, trying to artificially grow rice, citrus and grapes in an otherwise parched hot semi-arid climate. Whereas the much hyped electricity generation in reality became a small part of the operation. Instead of supplying 17% of the South Eastern Grid as the Snowy Mountains Hydro Electric Authority would want the public to believe, it supplies only 4-5%. The publicity of the Authority is not only misleading but downright wrong."

Since the Snowy Mountains Hydro Electric Scheme of the 1950s, the choice of water allocation has always been political. The construction of the Jindabyne Dam in 1967 destroyed the 150 year old local community of Dalgety, which had the Snowy running wild through the town. Dalgety's fresh water supply was reduced to a token 1% flow!
The township of Dalgety has not recovered to this day.

In 1996 a report commissioned and prepared by the NSW Department of Land and Water Conservation, Victorian Department of Natural Resources and Environment (now the Department of Sustainability and Environment) and the Snowy Mountains Hydro Electric Authority recommended that a minimum of 28% of the original flow that passed Jindabyne before the dams were built, be reinstated to the river.

A key perception problem is that Hydro industrialists argue that any water not piped to hydro-electricity or to fill dams is wasted water flow that just runs into the sea. These water industrialists reject the concept of ecological river flows as barbarian.

Then recently, the Snowy River Alliance has flagged the opening of the Mowamba River which is a headwater tributary to the Snowy. Currently, it is captured by a weir where it is whipped away via an aqueduct to Lake Jindabyne.

An article, 'Standoff over the Snowy' by Debra Jopson, 30-Jan-10, (Fairfax media) has highlighted that the Snowy River Alliance plans legal action against the NSW Government for failing to honour a five-year review of the Snowy Hydro Corporation's water licence. The Alliance is arguing the legal provisions allowing the Mowamba water flow to be increased without compensationary payments.

It is clear from reading the Snowy Scientific Committee's three reports so far that the Snowy upper reaches are sick, despite the $425 million agreement in 2002 by three governments to restore it.

Sacrificed long ago to humanity's needs for hydroelectricity and irrigation water for the Murray Darling food bowl, in drought the river has become so deprived of lusty water flow that its cobbles do not turn over. Its deep pools alienate life forms, forbiddingly hot on top and cold on the bottom.

Last month the scientific committee warned the NSW Government that the limited environmental flows allowed from Snowy Hydro dams provide mere ''life support'' for plants and animals in the river."

The continued demise of the magnificent Snowy River is attributed to the political influence of the long downstream self-interested rice growers, cotton growers and citrus and grape growers, all wholly artifically dependent on irrigation from the Murray River, fed by the Snowy River upstream.

But such exploitive irrigation-dependent industries have powerful political friends like the Australian Government Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation, the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Ricegrowers Association of Australia, SunRice, Rabobank, Westfarmers Federation Insurance, CopRice, Rice Marketing Board of NSW, Go Grains Health & Nutrition Ltd, Coleambally Irrigation, Goulburn-Murray Water, Murray Irrigation Limited, Snowy Hydro, NSW Irrigators’ Council, Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation, the Kondinin (agricultural) Group, Cotton Australia, NSW Farmers’ Association, National Farmers’ Federation, and the Australian Rural Leadership Program, amongst others.

Comments

Dairy exports make Australia one of the world’s largest exporter of virtual water, despite it being one of the driest continents on the planet!.

Dairy production takes place in all states, but it is particularly significant in Victoria, where more than 60 per cent of all dairy farming enterprises are located. The number of dairy farms has declined steadily over recent decades, but the industry is trending towards larger and intensive farming.

Approximately 569 GL/year is transferred across from the Snowy River Basin and released to the Murray River upstream of Hume Reservoir. Fifty percent of this water is allocated to the Victorian River Murray diverters. The other fifty percent is allocated to New South Wales. Dairying is the heaviest user of irrigated water, often requiring irrigated pasture.

In 2007 Japanese beverage giant Kirin acquired dairy processor National Foods for $2.8 billion. The emergence of large multi-national companies as significant players in the Australian dairy industry was forcing producers to bulk up to larger farms.

Dairy Australia's managing director Mike Ginnivan said the industry would remain a major user of water in the Murray Darling Basin for at least the next 10 years and would necessitate continued improvements in water use efficiency.

By banning the export of dairy products and reducing our own consumption we may have a chance to save our ailing river systems!

In 1975 I visited the Snowy with friends and camped in the area. I remember swimming in the river. The water was about 1.5 metres deep, very clear with smooth white pebbles and rocks on the bottom. It was so clean and soft that I was drinking it as I swam and I remember thinking that my immersion in this element at that moment was sheer perfection. There was no-one else around.

This post dates the damming of the river but maybe they had let more water through and the irrigation demands were less than they are now.
More than a decade before when I was at school, one of our prescribed books was "Above the snow line"- a novel about the Snowy project and the immigrant workers. That was my introduction to this feat of engineering. I don't recall the environmental impacts ever being discussed in class.

The following year my parents took me up to see the Snowy project on a guided motoring tour - I recall high dam walls turbines and things which meant little to me. I wouldn't have known what had been lost in the creation of this scheme. I still have coloured photographs (slides) of this trip. It was 1962.

Thanks Milly & Quark for your feedback.

Agriculture that profits from robbing resources (like potable water) from one region is inequitable. The Murray Valley, Riverina and Murray Darling irrigation regions are robbing Australia’s Alpine region of its water for artificial agriculture that is out of synch with its climate and so wholly dependent on artificial resources - water, fertilizer insecticides and GM.

It is State-sanction theft underwritten by corrupt cronyism where politicians meter out favours to influential lobbyists that justify their claim on providing Australian export revenue and jobs - be it drought rice growers, drought citrus growers, drought orchards, drought dairy farmers. And then they give us the dust storms as their topsoil is eroded.

Why do we need so much milk, cheese and yoghurt on our supermarket shelves anyway? The supply is excessive to the extent that it is exported, so our primary industry policy has us ruining the Australian environment (river depletion, irrigation salinity/acidification) for export revenue. Primary

Industry policy clearly has ripped up Triple Bottom Line accountability.

In 1975 I visited the Snowy with friends and camped in the area. I remember swimming in the river. The water was about 1.5 metres deep, very clear with smooth white pebbles and rocks on the bottom. It was so clean and soft that I was drinking it as I swam and I remember thinking that my immersion in this element at that moment was sheer perfection. There was no-one else around.
Spring Street will argue the food bowl utilitarian justification that river water from the bush is needed to feed the urban millions swelling from more arriving at Tullamarine like ants out of a nest.

Only the human test is applied to resource allocation. The locals in the bush are ignored because the millions of votes are increasingly in the cities.

------

Quark, traditional Australian values like fresh stream water have been forgotten in urbane Australia. Melbourne's water used to be the best. Now it is metallic with all the additives. Now they are ruining the Wonthaggi region and buggering its locals to cater for a desal plant for monstrous Melbourne.

The Snowy Scheme history should be re-written from the point of view of the promises versus the outcomes, and from the point of view of the benefits with the costs, and from the point of view of the national economy versus the local destruction. We just copied America, trying to emulate America. Most of the employment went to immigrants.

The sixteen dams were to provide irrigation to the Riverina and Murray-Goulburn to create a food bowl to feed a growing Melbourne and Sydney fuled by massive immigration. The turbine generated electricity was a secondary output. The seven power stations supply only 10% of the electricity for VIC and NSW, mush of which is lost over the hundreds of kilometres of transmission lines that have scarred many fragile ecosystems.

The justification that Hydro-electricity is clean, efficient and renewable energy is wrong. The scheme cost $820m and destroyed vast river valleys. Building a dam effectively decommissions a wild river and the ecosystems it supports.

The environmental damage is irreversible. Irreversible damage is not clean and not renewable. The only renewable aspect of hydro is rain re-filling artificial dams. Rivers are a non-renewable resource and the classification of hydro as a "renewable" energy source is a misnomer.

It's a bugger the bush mentality.

Tiger Quoll
Snowy River 3885
Australia

I think what you say, Tigerquoll is an excellent account of the strangling of the Snowy. It's just unutterably sad and very hard to wake up each morning knowing that the destruction of our environment continues unabated. Every day we are a little worse off.

Yes but Quark here is the silver lining of the cloud - we can each one of us do something right now to reverse this. In fact the Earth depends on each of us right now. It is the midnight hour but not quite too late ....

What is required is that we all phase out meat and dairy from our diets. It doesn't have to be overnight. Take your time. Start with eating red meat only twice a week then once a week then none, moving down to poultry etc then lastly fish. Meat substitutes can be purchased in the supermarket that look and taste pretty close to the real thing or you can try recipes at
www.vegcooking.com or www.veganeasy.org/recipes

Then move on to eliminating milk, cheese, yoghurt, icecream, butter making sure to increase calcium-rich foods (sesame seeds-tahini, sunflower seeds, dark green leafies). Lastly phase out eggs.

It's not that hard. You will feel more alive, more energetic, healthier and happier knowing you are making a positive contribution to the planet. In this way you will be an example for all around you.

If you can't or won't do it, how can we expect others to?

How can we turn this disastrous situation around if we don't all adopt a plant-based diet?