Talbingo residents have aired fears about the impact on tourism if public access to the Talbingo Dam, via the spillway, is shut-off for periods during construction of the massive Snowy Hydro 2.0 project.
Wednesday’s community meeting at the Country Club attracted robust discussion among the 30-odd residents, including members of the Talbingo Progress Association, and Snowy Hydro representatives.
Snowy Hydro came in for both criticism and praise over the two-hour meeting, which was facilitated by Snowy Valleys Council, as the gathering heard of the disappointment of some residents about the consultation with the small town about the project to date.
While the meeting indicated residents overwhelmingly supported the Snowy 2.0 project, it was the prospect of losing access to the dam, a mecca for fishing and boating enthusiasts in the summer months, which was the key concern.
The dam was described as the lifeblood of a small community that depends on the tourism trade.
A boat ramp and swimming area near the spillway provides the main recreational access to the lake through Talbingo for visitors and locals alike, but Snowy Hydro plans to shut off the spillway to public access at different periods of construction.
With Lobs Hole, just south of Talbingo, to be the focal point of works, Snowy Hydro is proposing to freight most of the large machinery for the project, including tunnel boring equipment, in through Talbingo and across Talbingo Dam via 20mx50m barges.
The water route is considered the best transport method to avoid upgrading roads from the Snowy Mountains Highway into Lobs Hole, where a number of threatened species have been identified.
Residents are worried if visitors can’t get to the dam through Talbingo, they might not be lost just for that visit, but forever.
Caravan park operator James Smith said the town depended on the dam.
“The servo, the services club – all the business in town rely on tourists getting access to that spillway and the dam,” Mr Smith said. “This will have a huge impact on the town.
“In summer, boats are queued along that spillway.
“If visitors get here and can’t get to the dam, they’re going to go back to Blowering. The next time they’re planning a trip, they’ll probably go back to Blowering again, and Talbingo might not see them again.”
Snowy Hydro representative Dean Lynch said the corporation was confident it could find a good outcome for Talbingo by working with the community.
“Snowy Hydro wants to see the town grow,” Mr Lynch said. “We’re confident there will be an economic benefit from the project.
“There will be workers staying in the town, transport coming through.
“I’m very confident there are ways to work through the concerns being raised.”
He conceded there would be times the spillway road providing access to the dam is closed during the construction period, but noted a commitment to keep it open during holiday periods and other peak tourism times.
He urged residents to lodge submissions with the Department of Planning on the Environmental Impact Statement prepared. Submissions must be in by August 20.
Mr Lynch said Snowy Hydro was open to supporting the town in other ways, by funding facilities such as cycling and walking tracks, and perhaps a swimming pool.
Residents queried about whether Snowy Hydro could access the dam in other locations – perhaps Sue City – while the prospect of developing other recreation areas on the dam, to provide alternate access to the spillway, received support.
Both residents and Snowy Hydro noted that the spillway was an operational part of the dam, and it was rare for it to be accessible to the general public, and even rarer to have vehicular access.
Most are cordoned off, just like the Blowering spillway was almost 10 years ago.