MEMBER for Bathurst and Deputy Premier Paul Toole says he will be making sure community concerns about a proposed pumped hydro project near Yetholme are heard.
The project might have been announced as the recipient of an almost $9.5 million recoverable grant by the NSW Government last Friday, but Mr Toole said this week that he has been listening carefully to worries about the proposed operation.
He has also emphasised, though, that the project is only at the stage of very preliminary investigations.
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.
It says water will be pumped to an upper reservoir, stored there and then the water will be released to generate energy at the times of day it is most needed.
The Friends of the Fish River launched an electronic petition against the project in mid-August and has been critical of many aspects of the proposal, including what it says is the unsustainable volumes of water that will need to be drawn from the Fish River, the fact the Yetholme project is not in one of the state's Renewable Energy Zones and what it says is ATCO's "refusal to confirm that only renewable energy would be used to power the project".
"With the pumped hydro project, there have been a number of concerns that have been raised by the community," Mr Toole said.
"At this stage, it's [the project] still in its early days. It's only in preliminary investigations.
"It's still got a number of hurdles to overcome at both state and federal levels.
"We might not see an EIS [environmental impact statement] until the end of the year. It may take up to 12 months before any decision is made on the project."
- How was Yetholme chosen? Because it's low cost, pumped hydro project opponents say
- Why there? Company behind pumped hydro project explains how Yetholme was chosen
- Pumped hydro is good, but not when it draws water from our small river | Letter
- Let's clear up some misunderstandings about pumped hydro project near Yetholme | Letter
- Information sessions planned for proposed pumped hydro project near Yetholme
- I believe this project is more interested in profit than the environment | Letter
- This is what's wrong with the proposed pumped hydro project near Yetholme | Letter
- Wallerawang battery shows why proposed Yetholme project shouldn't go ahead | Letter
Mr Toole said residents with whom he had met had raised concerns about the project's potential impact on water, the environment and threatened species within the area.
"It will be up to the proponent to show how they have no impact on those areas," he said.
Mr Toole said he considered the views that he had heard about the project from the community were "fair and reasonable and I will certainly be making sure that they will be heard loud and clear".
NSW Treasurer Matt Kean announced last Friday morning that the Yetholme proposal was one of five pumped hydro projects that would receive a total of almost $45 million in recoverable grants to "support pre-investment activities, establish project feasibility and develop a strategic business case".
The money will need to be paid back to the government if the project reaches "financial close", according to Mr Kean.
ATCO has previously told the Western Advocate that the project's bottom reservoir would be built on "highly degraded land", that ATCO would have to overcompensate for any ecological impact from the construction of the project and that only natural flows from the Fish River would be taken for the pumped hydro project - and "only when the flows are sufficient to do so".
ATCO also estimates 200 construction jobs will be created from the pumped hydro project and there will be another 30 jobs ongoing.