Tony Raggatt, 22 March 2016

A NEW dam at Hell’s Gate on the upper Burdekin River could support agribusiness with annual turnover worth $2 billion, a new report says.

The report, titled the Upper Burdekin Irrigation Scheme, says the dam could support irrigated pastures in the Charters Towers region, producing sorghum, sugar cane, ethanol, electricity generation and more intensive beef cattle grazing.

North Queensland federal MP Bob Katter released the report yesterday, energised by its findings and calling on governments to build the Hell’s Gate dam in partnership with businesses and communities that would use its water.

“We don’t want another report, we want action,” Mr Katter said.

However, more feasibility work is needed with economic group Townsville Enterprise lodging an expression of interest with the federal government for funding to co-ordinate studies on a regional water security plan, including an assessment of the Hell’s Gate dam site.

Mayor Jenny Hill said government funding was needed to develop a business case for the project.

Cr Hill said that business case would give an indication about whether it was more feasible to take water from a dam at Hell’s Gate compared to other options such as raising the Burdekin Falls Dam wall and duplicating a pipeline from the Haughton River.

State Thuringowa MP Aaron Harper said the state government was waiting to see the federal government’s response to funding applications but also said the State was “already looking” at the Hell’s Gate dam proposal.

“I think it has merit,” Mr Harper said.

Townsville Enterprise board member Peter Honeycombe said regional Queensland desperately needed jobs and water security.

“This is a piece of infrastructure that is critical to the survival of regional Queensland,” Mr Honeycombe said.

GHD Engineering representative Rob Saunders said work that has already been done on the Hell’s Gate dam proposal showed it had great potential.

“The Hell’s Gate dam site is a fantastic dam site,” Mr Saunders said.

“The soil downstream from the Hell’s Gate site is of high value and the engineering solution to get the water there is fairly straight forward.”

“With the right focus and right participants, we feel there is a viable project there.”

Extracted in full from the Townsville Bulletin.