Jobs to flow from $660m dam wall raising project
Hundreds of businesses have signed up to be part of a $1.8 billion water infrastructure spend in NSW that is the biggest since WWII.
The need to drought proof the state was the top priority to come from The Daily Telegraph's Bush Summit last year.
"The Bush Summit told the stories of farmers not having enough water to plant crops in the middle of our worst drought," NSW Water Minister Melinda Pavey said on Wednesday.
"It is these stories that give us the energy and the determination to build the dams."
Ms Pavey was speaking at the Wyangala Dam outside Cowra which has already begun consultation with the community about a 10 metre increase in the height of the dam wall that will cost at least $659 million.
"Already 288 local businesses have registered their interest in the project which will be shared with the main contractor and create hundreds of jobs for the life of the project."
Wyangala's public school has just seven pupils and is expecting a jump in numbers as contractors move to the village that was created when the existing dam wall was built in the 1960s. A local man has already announced plans to open a coffee shop to service dam workers when they start preliminary work in October.
"This is about food security and economic prosperity," Ms Pavey said. "There will be hundreds of people on the tools here for three years."
The raised wall will increase the dam's capacity by one third - the same amount of water as Sydney Harbour. It is part of a statewide $1.8 billion investment in water infrastructure that also includes a new Dungowan Dam downstream of the existing dam near Tamworth and a new dam at Mole Creek in the Northern Tablelands.
Ms Pavey also announced a $10 million investment in linking up the groundwater bores of the Billimari Bore Field with the Cowra water supply.
"While the drought has eased in some areas, many towns continue to be at risk of water shortages and many more have been living with severe water restrictions," Ms Pavey said.
"Cowra relies on water flowing from the Lachlan River, which has been at risk of ceasing to flow during this drought."
At one point the town's water supply at Wyangala dam was down to just eight per cent. "We were holding our breaths for the towns of Cowra, Forbes and Condoblin," Ms Pavey said. But despite the desperate need for greater water storage she said some "gentlemen farmers downstream' were still opposed to the new wall.
Farmer and Lachlan Valley Water spokesman Ed Fagan said: "Broadly speaking people are supportive because it will provide a buffer to face the next drought."
Cowra mayor Bill West had no reservations. "This is very exciting. It is greater water security for the valley, it will help sustain agriculture, stimulate the economy and support some environmental issues."
The area's federal MP Steph Cooke said: "The overwhelming community feeling is that they just want us to get on with it now and get it done."
Originally published as Jobs to flow from $660m dam wall raising project