Snowy 2.0 promises continued recreational access during works

Snowy 2.0 was given the planning approval for by the NSW Government last week, the next major step towards a $4.6 billion investment in the region, creating up to 2000 jobs during the busiest phases of construction.

As part of the agreement, Snowy Hydro was required to consider the impacts the project would have on national parks and recreation areas, with $100 million to be invested in biodiversity and environmental offset initiatives.

Brian Free, President of the Tumut Acclimatisation Society, said he has read the EIS and attended recent meetings, and feels somewhat confident about the project’s plans.

Mr Free said he felt content that there would still be access to Tantangara Dam throughout the project’s construction, with back access available through Port Phillip Fire Trail when the front access is closed. 

Project managers have assured recreationalists that they’ll still be able to fish and boat at Tantangara. While certain areas may be off limits during different stages of construction, there will be other access points available.

“Fishing access at Tantangara on the northern end is unchanged and will be improved during construction. Tantangara Road and the southern end of the reservoir will also be open, except during key periods of construction,” said a Snowy Hydro spokesperson.

“Snowy Hydro is providing significant offsets as part of Snowy 2.0. This includes $5 million for a trout grow out program to improve recreational fishing and additional funding for recreational projects to significantly improve horse riding, fishing and camping facilities, particularly around Tantangara.”

Mr Free said there had been talk of adding toilet blocks and improved camping facilities at Tantangara, which he and other anglers opposed.

“It’ll spoil the remote feel of the area,” he said, adding that portable camping toilets are readily available for camping and fishing stores, and the primitive feeling of the area prevents it from becoming overcrowded with tourists.

Snowy Hydro has consistently pointed to its 70-year history in Kosciuszko National Park (KNP) as evidence it can be a good neighbour, along with its relatively small footprint within KNP, at 0.1 per cent of the total park area.

When asked for comment on the project, the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment wrote, “NSW Planning and Assessment has coordinated the state’s role in the determination of the Snowy 2.0 Project, including assessment of the Environmental Impact Statement. NPWS will work within the conditions set down in the approval granted by the Minister for Planning and Public Spaces on 20 May 2020.”

The 2000-megawatt hydro project still requires federal permission and has published an Environmental Impact Statement addressing its ecological impact.

The EIS also looked at recreational impacts on the national park and Tantangara and Talbingo Dams, along with some areas around Bullock Hill. 

“The amenity values of the landscape are core to the recreational uses of KNP,” reads the EIS. “During construction works in particular, the amenity of the immediate Project area is expected to be affected through increased traffic, noise and visual impacts from construction sites, as well as restricted access due to construction-related road closures.”

They write that the area will also be visually impacted by overhead powerlines and cables which will continue while the project is operational.

“Users of specific areas such as Lobs Hole Ravine camping area, Bullocks Hill and some of the western foreshore of Tantangara will be more impacted” than in other areas, according to the EIS, overall concluding that recreation would be able to continue throughout the project build.

“It is expected that many users, like bushwalkers, riders, campers, skiers, 4WD enthusiasts and even fishers and boat users, will be able to avoid or move around the broader Project area without being impacted unreasonably,” the EIS concluded.