Doesn't it always seem to be the case: Wherever there is an area of exceptional
scenic beauty, mankind will find some way to stuff it up, invariably for short-term
economic gain (greed). Such a place is the Mole River valley 20km south east of
Tenterfield on the New England Tableland, where it is proposed to build a dam.
The scenic Mole River valley, south west of Tenterfield
The Mole River lies west of the Great Dividing Range, and drains into the Murray
Darling system. So why is the Clarence Environment Centre concerned about a
proposal by the Tenterfield Shire Council to build a dam on the Mole, when we have
more than enough environmental problems within our own valley.
Well, to begin with, the quantities of water involved in the proposal are identical to
those of an earlier scheme, put forward by that same council to build a dam on the
east of the Dividing Range, within the Clarence River catchment. Fortunately for the
Clarence that earlier proposal was overturned. But could this latest scheme be a plan
to put infrastructure in place, that will later be used to argue for a transfer of water
from the Clarence.
With most existing dams on the New England - notably Glenlyon, Copeton, Pindari,
and Rangers Valley dams - proving impossible to fill in recent years, and with that
possibility likely to become even more remote with the impact of climate change, we
decided to undertake an on-site inspection to determine whether there would be a
realistic expectation of a Mole River dam being any different.
Our first stop was the Tenterfield Council, where we spoke with General Manager,
Mark Arnold. Mark was very obliging, considering we had made no appointment,
and he just happens to be the ex-brother-in-law of our local State Member, Steve
Cansdell, so he is well briefed on how Clarence Valley residents view any proposal
to divert our water. Mark explained that the Mole River proposal was not new, but
had formed part of an original ambitious dam construction program that had included
many of the above-named reservoirs. It was only when the plug was pulled on any
plans for new dams some years ago, that the Mole received a reprieve.
The Mole River Dam
A threat to the Clarence.