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Dam wall removal ordered

Thursday, 15th April, 2010

* Flooding on the Darling River will see a flow in the Talyawalka Creek which last ran in February after a decade of no flow. * Flooding on the Darling River will see a flow in the Talyawalka Creek which last ran in February after a decade of no flow.

A property owner has been ordered to remove a seven-metrehigh dam wall he built across the Talyawalka Creek, which is expected to flow in the coming weeks.

NSW Waterr Commissioner, David Harriss, said in the past two weeks compliance officers with the NSW Office of Water had been investigating reports of structures built across the creek.“Following investigations, the property owner has been served with a notice to remove the structure,” Mr Harriss said in a statement. He said that the property owner had been directed to remove the structure within three days.

The action comes two weeks after Darling River Action Group (DRAG) secretary Brian “Barney” Stevens revealed the dam’s existence in a letter to the Barrier Daily Truth. In his letter, Mr Stevens asked what the authorities planned doing about the illegal dam.“Will it be left there for the next two years while the wheels of government slowly turn and the perpetrator makes more than enough money to cover any fine that is imposed?”

The maximum penalties for water theft are $1.1 million for individuals and two years imprisonment, and $2.2 million for corporations. It was unclear if the property owner in question was penalised. The Talyawalka is an overflow that leaves the Darling River just above Wilcannia and rejoins below Menindee. The creek, which last ran in February after a decade of no flow, is expected to flow as a result of floodwater from Queensland coming down the Darling. The NSW Officer of Water expects the flow to peak at Wilcannia in early May.

“Swift action in the removal of the structure is necessary so that the impending flood flows are not inappropriately captured, impeded or diverted as they make their way through the river system,” Mr Harriss said. He said that the department had received many reports of suspected illegal structures having been built before the flows have arrived.

“Today’s action in the Talyawalka Creek is one of a number of reports that are being investigated. “The NSW Office of Water is very aware of the potential impact of both unapproved works and works that do not comply with approval in the beds of rivers and creeks, and this is particularly important in the current flow event, where many areas have not seen water for up to 10 years.” The department said it used information from members of the public along with targeted aerial surveillance and satellite imagery to detect suspected illegal structures.

Mr Harriss urged landholders to contact the local branch of the NSW Office of Water for advice if they were not sure about whether proposed works, such as levies or dams need approval.

Confidential reports on suspected illegal water activity can be made by contacting the NSW Office of Water on 1800 633 362 or by sending an email to water.compliance@dwe.nsw.gov.au.

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