• E3 Consult's environmental planning and remediation helped make construction of the Wyaralong Dam possible.

file under: Asia/Pacific, Bioremediation, Environment, Program Management, Sustainability

Building Infrastructure that Builds a Community

Australia's Wyaralong Dam project demonstrates the potential of strategic, sustainable infrastructure

Beyond managing water supplies, the Wyaralong Dam project in South East Queensland (SEQ), Australia, demonstrates the potential of strategic, sustainable infrastructure. By creating new habitat areas and replacing vegetation cleared for the dam, the project will offset its carbon dioxide emissions in 20 to 25 years. Building and maintaining the dam, as well as its extensive recreational areas and environmental corridors, has created jobs and supported local businesses. The project’s new parks and campgrounds—integral to the community—have also stimulated tourism in the Scenic Rim area.

By creating new habitat areas and replacing vegetation cleared for the dam, the project will offset its carbon dioxide emissions in 20 to 25 years.  

However, just several years ago, the proposed site for the dam had been compromised by drought and outdated land clearing and grazing practices. E3 Consult, a CDM Smith company, partnered with Queensland Water Infrastructure (QWI) to prepare and implement environmental management plans, remediate 18 former cattle dip sites, and provide technical environmental input on design and construction measures needed to complete this important project.

Managing Complex Challenges
One of the largest in SEQ, Wyaralong Dam is part of a portfolio of projects that will address a water supply shortfall in the region. The project includes a 21,000-megalitre-per-year storage facility in the Logan River catchment that will secure adequate water supply through 2050.

The project was completed in several phases over 2.5 years. In addition to construction of the dam, work included the realignment and construction of major roadways; relocation of infrastructure, such as telecommunications and power lines; federal and state approval processes; and design and implementation of extensive rehabilitation areas. Remediation of contaminated land had to be completed, and environmental management plans developed, before dam construction could begin.

Building a dam of this scale presented a number of challenges, including strict emissions standards. “We needed to offset 305,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide through construction of the project,” says Michelle Cooke, E3 Consult project manager. “We accomplished this through the planting of 300 hectares of vegetation. It’s one of the few infrastructure projects in Queensland that will completely offset its carbon footprint.”

The complex process of obtaining permits at state and national levels also proved difficult. “This project had approximately 1,500 environmental approval conditions,” says Brendan Moon of QWI. According to Moon, the E3 team’s ability to navigate the regulatory environment proved invaluable. “The project was delivered ahead of schedule and below budget with all approvals met—thanks to the team’s strong grasp of the technical detail, and desire and willingness to get their hands dirty.”

Protecting Local Ecosystems
Rehabilitating habitats affected by construction was a top priority for QWI. To ensure the health of local wildlife, environmental corridors were established at the eastern and western ends of the dam. Seeds from indigenous plants were collected, a nursery was established, and a horticulturist was brought in to supervise planting and growing. More than 500,000 trees and shrubs were planted to rehabilitate the area from construction, long-term drought and land management practices.

Wyaralong Dam Nesting BoxMore than 400 nest boxes were installed to help marsupials, birds and bats living in the area transition after construction.

To help animals move freely through the changing landscape, 15 kilometres (km) of fauna fencing was constructed to guide them along new roads, and 21 new underpasses were built so that animals, such as kangaroos and wallabies, could travel safely under roads. In addition, more than 400 nest boxes were installed to replace lost trees and nesting holes—helping marsupials, birds and bats living and nesting in the area transition after construction.

Finally, water flows were altered by the dam’s construction and operation. A permanent structural upstream and downstream fishway was incorporated into the dam structure to facilitate the natural migration of fish and recreate natural conditions. To ensure the effectiveness of these environmental efforts, they will be measured and assessed for the next 25 years.

Supporting Sustainable Growth
The Wyaralong Dam project created nearly 700 jobs during construction, including work in trail building and environmental rehabilitation. Meanwhile, the project team contracted with more than 300 local businesses that provided services, materials and supplies for the project.

The dam’s recreational trails project, which included 25 km of mountain bike trails and more than 40 km of horse and walking trails, was the largest in Queensland in recent years. Construction of the trails employed several hundred people through government organizations like the Green Army, a program that trains local and indigenous workers to perform skilled work. On this project, 90 percent of trainees were placed in jobs—and most have maintained their employment as a result.

Meanwhile, the new recreational areas have already had a significant, positive effect on tourism to the area. And popular events, like the national mountain bike championships held at Mt. Joyce Escape Recreation Park in 2011, will continue to draw visitors.