Rookwood Weir Environment

Rookwood Weir Project

Fitzroy River

Sunwater is committed to delivering water for prosperity, benefiting Central Queensland communities, agriculture and industrial enterprise.

Environmental Management

During the construction of Rookwood Weir every effort will be made to mitigate or offset potential impacts on the natural environment.

An Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for Rookwood Weir was undertaken as part of the Lower Fitzroy River Infrastructure Project (LFRIP). In December 2016, the Queensland Coordinator-General approved the EIS subject to conditions and recommendations as outlined in the evaluation report. The then Australian Minister for the Environment and Energy subsequently granted approval for the LFRIP subject to conditions in February 2017.

Reference to the term Commonwealth throughout this section refers to the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).

Managing impacts

During the EIS development, detailed mapping and field surveys were undertaken to determine existing ecological values and potential impacts on terrestrial and aquatic flora and fauna. Impacts will be avoided where possible, then mitigated, and offset where residual impacts occur.

Specific conditions relating to Project impacts have been included in the EIS approval to manage impacts to Matters of National Environmental Significance (MNES) under the Australian legislation and Matters of State Environmental Significance (MSES) under Queensland legislation.

Aquatic ecology

Aquatic Ecology Survey
Aquatic Ecology Survey. Image courtesy of GHD

Under Project approval conditions, offsets and management measures are required for impacts to:

  • the threatened Fitzroy River Turtle (Rheodytes leukops)
  • White-throated Snapping Turtle (Elseya albagula)
  • a maximum of 660 hectares of aquatic habitat which will be impacted by the Project.

Sunwater is implementing a range of management measures to further mitigate potential impacts associated with aquatic ecology including:

  • constructing a fish passage (fishlock) at the weir and implementing a monitoring program
  • designing and constructing Queensland’s first turtle passage (turtle ramp) and an ongoing turtle monitoring program
  • Turtle Species Management Plan, available here.

Offsets:

  • protection and management of turtle nests
  • financial settlement offset for loss of aquatic habitat (Fitzroy River Turtle)
  • enhancement of existing fish barriers in the Fitzroy catchment to improve fish passage.

Vegetation and habitat

Under Project approval conditions, offsets and management measures are required for impacts to threatened vegetation and habitat.

The Project will impact vegetation including:

  • approximately 20 hectares of Brigalow (Acacia harpophylla), Threatened Ecological Community (TEC – Commonwealth listed) and endangered Regional Ecosystem (RE – State listed)
  • 100 Black Ironbox trees (Eucalyptus raveretiana – Commonwealth listed).

Offset plans will be developed for these threatened species.

The Project will impact habitat including:

  • approximately 588 hectares of Red Goshawk habitat (Erythrotriorchis radiatus – Commonwealth listed)
  • approximately 307 hectares of Powerful Owl habitat (Ninox strenua – State listed).

Vegetation and habitat loss will be managed in accordance with the Project’s environmental management plan. In addition, Sunwater is undertaking:

  • pre-clearance surveys to confirm the extent
  • preparation and implementation of a species management program
  • preparation and implementation of weed and pest control measures
  • rehabilitation and revegetation activities.

Water quality

The Fitzroy Basin has been largely modified for human land use practices. Influences on water quality in the Project area includes:

  • sediment-laden runoff and erosion from cleared agricultural land
  • increased salinity, pH and metal concentrations from point source inputs
  • mine-water releases in upper sub-catchments
  • changes to flows from weirs and water extractions
  • natural seasonal climatic variability, floods and drought
  • natural (saline and alkaline) geology of soils.

Impacts to water quality may occur during the filling (inundation) of Rookwood Weir from an increase in nutrients entering the Fitzroy River due to decaying vegetation. The EIS predicted that up to 645 tonnes of additional nutrients (i.e. nitrogen) may enter the Fitzroy River for which offsets would be required.

To manage potential water quality impacts associated with the Project, the following documents will be required:

  • Land Use Management Plan from purchasers of water for agricultural purposes from Rookwood Weir. The plans are to ensure Queensland and Australian government requirements will be met regarding Great Barrier Reef water quality targets.
  • Construction Environmental Management Plan to manage short-term, localised impacts, erosion, run-off and sedimentation and pollutants.
  • Operational Management Plan and compliance with approval conditions to manage longer term water quality impacts, including a water quality monitoring program (dissolved oxygen, turbidity, nutrients, salinity and blue green algae) weir operating procedures.
Fitzroy River in flood.
Image Courtesy of GHD

Offsets

Impacts to Matters of National Environmental Significance (MNES) and Matters of State Environmental Significance (MSES) have been avoided where possible or mitigated. Even with mitigation, some impacts are still deemed to occur (i.e. residual impacts).

The Project is required to provide offsets for these residual impacts, in accordance with Queensland and Australian government EIS approval conditions.

The Project commits to providing offsets for significant residual impacts on the following MNES:

  • Brigalow (Acacia harpophylla dominant and co-dominant) ecological community
  • Black Ironbox (Eucalyptus raveretiana)
  • Red Goshawk (Erythrotriorchis radiatus) habitat
  • Fitzroy River Turtle (Rheodytes leukops)
  • Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area and National Heritage Place.

The Project also commits to providing offsets for significant residual impacts on the following MSES:

  • White-throated Snapping Turtle (Elseya albagula)
  • Powerful Owl (Ninox strenua) habitat.

Sunwater’s approach to offsets will be outlined in the required Offsets Strategy and Offset Management Plan. The approach will involve co-locating offsets, where possible (i.e. co-locating vegetation, fauna habitat, turtle nests).

Social impact assessment

Sunwater commissioned a review of the 2014 Social Impact Assessment (SIA) for the Rookwood Weir component of the Lower Fitzroy River Infrastructure Project. The purpose of the review was to address the Coordinator-General’s EIS approval condition and to ensure the SIA for the Project reflects the current social and economic context and the current project components.

The report learnings can be found here.


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Information

Please contact the Rookwood Weir project team for more information.