AS a petition collects signatures in opposition to a proposed pumped hydro project near Yetholme, the company behind the project has emphasised that it wants to engage with those who have concerns.
(min cost $8)
Login or signup to continue reading
"Any time somebody asks us a question, we answer it," ATCO executive general manager of business development Ben Bolot said.
"We're not hiding, we're not saying we don't want to know.
"We'd much rather people actually came and spoke to us."
ATCO, a global company based in Canada that has been operating in Australia for about 65 years, is proposing the construction of a reservoir at the top of Mount Tennyson, near Yetholme, and another in a nearby valley as part of the pumped hydro project.
ATCO says water would be pumped to an upper reservoir when there is an excess of renewable energy, stored and then the water would be released to generate energy at the times of the day it is most needed.
The Friends of the Fish River group launched its electronic petition against the project last week.
The group says the pumped hydro project will "deforest and industrialise" the rural landscape; imperil five critically endangered listed species, including the regent honeyeater bird; require "unsustainable volumes of water" from the Fish River; and "the need to purchase and/or create new water licences will divide local communities and neighbours, destroying social cohesion".
The group also says the project "will use more energy (including coal or gas generated) than it creates".
Friends of the Fish River plans to ask the NSW Legislative Assembly "to call on the Government to reject the proposed project because it does not have any social licence from surrounding communities and farmers".
There was also a public meeting of unhappy citizens at O'Connell a few weeks ago in regards to the Yetholme proposal.
ATCO's Mr Bolot said the company had opened an office in lower Keppel Street about a year ago specifically to engage with the community.
He said there had already been changes made to the proposed project based on community concerns, including having underground cabling instead of above ground cabling (for visual reasons, to lessen the bushfire risk and to reduce the easement needed) to the transmission line; and using water monitoring to show that the water flowing into the bottom reservoir from Frying Pan Creek would be matched by the water being released from that bottom reservoir into the creek.
"Where we can do something to help [address concerns], we're absolutely open to it, because we want to be part of the community for the long term," Mr Bolot said.
"We're not just here to build, make a profit and disappear."
Mr Bolot and ATCO communications and engagement manager Kimbalee Clews also said many questions about the project would be answered in the environmental impact statement that would soon be released.
"We're willing to share everything, we just have to wait for it to be in a format that we can share, which is just being finalised now," Ms Clews said.
"As soon as that's available, it will be available to the public."
They also emphasised that the project would not only need NSW Government approval to go ahead, it would need a final decision from ATCO itself that it wanted to proceed.
"We're still a good 12 months off making that decision," Ms Clews said.
"And through that whole time, there's the opportunity for the community to provide feedback and for us to make sure to show how we're mitigating any of those concerns that they might have."
Friends of the Fish River also says the construction for the proposed pumped hydro project will "destroy Aboriginal heritage and archaeological sites" and says the work at the top of Mount Tennyson to construct the upper reservoir "will be a threat to health and the environment".
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can access our trusted content:
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.