Loch it in

A discussion paper on a possible, estimated $70 million Corowa Weir/Loch project is to be finalised by Federation Council following an approach last November by Corowa Business Chamber.

CBC president Stuart Whisson said the chamber initiated the subject in April last year, had discussions with various politicians and authorities, and formally raised the matter with Federation Council in November.“We are pleased to have council support in pursuing a loch or weir,” he said.“Our preference for the location is past the golf course where there’d be little impact of farmers or anything like that but a feasibility study would determine the location. There is money available from the New South Wales State Government for the feasibility study.”Council’s general manager Adrian Butler said that with the strong support by staff from the office of Sussan Ley, Member for Farrer and Minister for the Environment, Federation Council and the CBC met with a number of stakeholders. It has included Murray Darling Basin Authority executive director River Management Andrew Reynolds and executive officer Emma Zouch.“From this meeting, council and the CBC agreed that the discussion paper should be finalised and approaches then should be made to the New South Wales Government, who would ultimately be the asset owner, and would be the proponent of any such project,” Mr Butler said.“The mayor has also raised this possible project in a recent face-to-face Riverina and Murray Joint Organisation Water Sub Committee meeting with the Federal Water Minister, Keith Pitt.“Cr Bronwyn Thomas and I have also pursued this possible project through various other engagements including at Murray Darling Association meetings and a meeting with the MDBA local engagement officer.”Member for Albury Justin Clancy has also been involved in talks.Mr Butler recommended council develop a position paper in conjunction with the CBC, to allow further work to proceed and be guided, which received unanimous backing. Councillors unanimously backed his recommendation.He said the paper should now be refined and updated as used as base for further work, including assisting to lodge any grant applications for feasibility study funding.“No broad community engagement on this possible project has been conducted at this stage but an extensive communication strategy by Federation Council, including direct and broader stakeholders will be required,” Mr Butler said.Cr Thomas emphasised the significance of Murray Darling Basin involvement to ensure a strong advocacy role which was acknowledged by council.“It might have started as a pipeline dream but it may come to fruition,” Deputy Mayor Shaun Whitechurch said at council’s March meeting.“Yes there’s the tourism appeal, but there are other benefits. There are only two towns between the Hume Weir and Yarrawonga Weir which are hugely affected by the rise and fall of water, that’s Corowa and Howlong.”Cr Whitechurch said tourism flourished when the river has a good, static level of water and Corowa doesn’t flourish when the level is not static.“We should fully investigate and find out what really are the thoughts of government departments and how our landholders are affected,” he said.The $70 million project cost is stated as a rough estimate, using the Euston Weir as a model.