2009 – Nathan Dam: the sum of its engineering and environmental parts

Russell Paton, Peter MacTaggart, Lee Benson

The Nathan Dam project has been identified by the State Government of Queensland as a potential water supply option to facilitate future growth in central Queensland. The proposed storage is located approximately 69 km downstream of the township of Taroom and would have a storage capacity of 1,080,000 ML which would make it Queensland’s fourth largest storage.

The proposed dam arrangement includes a central concrete gated spillway section across the river in order to maximise the storage volume and limit the flood rise upstream such that flood levels at Taroom are not increased during major flood events. A high level fixed crest spillway, to assist in the passage of rare flood events, forms the right abutment portion of the dam wall. It is proposed that the bulk of the concrete sections of the dam be constructed using roller compacted concrete (RCC).

The investigations to progress Nathan Dam are complicated by the existence of the Boggomoss Snail (Adclarkia dawsonensis) within the proposed inundation area. The snail is listed as a critically endangered species under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act), and a proportion of the snail’s known population is located on a Boggomoss (the colloquial name for an artesian spring) that will be inundated should the project proceed.

SunWater has engaged Australia’s foremost expert on land snails to design a translocation process aimed at relocating the species to alternative habitat outside the inundation area. The process will seek to not only protect the snail from the dam development, but to increase both its numbers and distribution thereby reducing risks to the currently isolated population from threats such as fire and predation. It is the first time in Australia that such a trial has been attempted, and SunWater is working closely with the Federal Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA) to ensure that the process is consistent with their policies and guidelines.

The paper will discuss the engineering and environmental challenges of the dam and how the Environmental Impact Study process can influence the delivery of a project.

Keywords: Nathan Dam, Environment, Engineering

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