Newey desilting plans prove a costly exercise for council

Cobar Shire Council has examined the feasibility of deepening the Newey Reservoir while it is almost dry, however budgetary constraints have prevented any works from going ahead in the near future.

In the current dry times there have been several calls for the Newey and the Old Res to be cleaned out and deepened before the next lot of rain comes.

It appears however that deepening the Newey is not feasible for a number of reasons.

Cobar Shire Council’s manager of planning and environment Stephen Poulter was part of a Newey project team set up by Peak Gold Mines’ (PGM) Chris Higgins at the end of 2014 which had a vision of making improvements to the recreation area.

Mr Poulter said there were over 50 suggestions made for projects and the idea of desilting the Newey was high on the committee’s ‘wish list’.

“Silt depth tests were organised by PGM for March 2015 and found that the silt depth ranged from 0 metres to over 2.4 metres.

“This higher silt depth however was found around the central land point and not near the water skiing channels,” Mr Poulter explained.

“Whilst there was a wish to make the Newey deeper across the whole of the reservoir, the foundation layer below the reservoir was found to be considerably hard increasing the difficulty and related cost of this process.

“The silt level tests found that approximately 17,000 cubic metres of silt and 1,000 cubic metres of natural ground were proposed to be removed.”

Mr Poulter said the last meeting of the committee was held on site in early 2015 and by that time the team had been reduced from the initial 13 interested people to just five.

He said he can’t recall any further activity being done by the committee, only that an assessment of the potential environmental impacts was being undertaken by PGM in order to allow the de-silting project to commence.

“This assessment was not submitted to us, but I recall that it began to rain around mid-2015, which put the project on hold,” Mr Poulter said.

With the departure of Mr Higgins to Canada, the committee is no longer active, and the matter has not been revisited since their last meeting.

There is no funding in Cobar Shire Council’s current budget to carry out desilting, which council’s general manager Peter Vlatko has reported is estimated to cost between $150,000 to $220,000. He said that quote only related to digging out half of the area at the Newey.

Only $20,000 worth of work has been allowed for in the current budget.

The Newey (also known as New Tank or Newie) was built in 1910 as a 150,000 cubic yard water reserve for the town and, in the 1980s, was enlarged for a recreation, fishing and picnic area.

A lack of water has always been a problem for people living in Cobar with low rainfall, hot summers and heavy use by the local mines.

Cobar’s reservoirs have been used as water storages for over 100 years and have regularly run dry. (The Old Res is now completely dry while the Newey is currently very low.)

During severe droughts the railway was called upon to provide water for the mines and the town and, up until as recently as 1957, water trains were used to keep the town supplied.

In 1966 a pipeline from Nyngan linked to the Albert Priest Channel to carry water from Lake Burrendong via the Macquarie River into reservoirs on top of Fort Bourke Hill to give Cobar a reliable water supply.