THE state government has moved with astonishing speed to announce plans to fund and build a major new dam for the region near Canowindra.
Like success, the new dam will inevitably have many fathers, but in this case Nationals federal MP John Cobb and Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner can justly share credit for pushing the project forward and doubtless our local representative Andrew Gee has been active behind the scenes too.
Historically identified as a potential dam site, Needles Gap had fallen out of favour because of the cost and time involved in taking it from a proposal to a finished storage. In the end the much smaller Carcoar Dam was built instead.
However, less than six months after Mr Cobb first raised it he has got it back on the agenda and the state government has agreed to fund it.
The disappointment Mr Cobb would have felt in not convincing the federal government to back his idea will be eased by the knowledge that the Baird government has stepped in at the behest of the Nationals, and funding is not dependent on capital from the partial sale of power infrastructure agreed this week.
That said, the five-year time frame is an ambitious target, given the environmental assessments and approvals, the design work to be done and the affected landholders who will have to be negotiated with.
Mr Cobb raised the idea of a new regional dam in the context of Electrolux’s decision to close the Orange plant as a way to create new jobs for Orange.
A major new dam such as Needles Gap will do that by bringing certainty about water supply to the mining and agriculture sectors.
There will also need to be discussion around how the new dam’s extra storage fits into regional water security, including of course the role of the Macquarie pipeline.