Season is dry, but salt lakes are full

30 Oct, 2002 10:00 PM
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JOHN Nicoletti has put in a drainage system estimated to be discharging 170L of water per minute but downstream issues threaten to scuttle the project.

Mr Nicoletti has spent $300,000 on a drainage network to fight salinity. He said the system was 14km long and serviced 14,000ha.

He wanted to direct the discharge into the natural waterways of the Booderockin-Warralakin catchment.

But authorities advised him to channel it to a salt lake on his property because of concerns from downstream neighbours.

The problem was that the drains worked so well, they filled up two lakes and threatened to spill over into a neighbouring property.

"We put these drains in before harvest last year and the lakes are already full," Mr Nicoletti said.

"They are 30-40ha lakes and one has 2m of water in it ‹ you could ski on it ‹ and we have had our driest winter on record.

"We could dig a channel to the next lake but it is in a neighbour's property and he does not want water in it.

"The bureaucrats did not think it was going to work like this when they told us to channel it into the lakes.

"When I started excavating, I wanted to follow the natural waterway and let it go into a 1000ac which was connected to the catchment that goes out to Koolyanobbing (Lake Deborah).

"I offered to pay for the cost of it to run under the M40, the Mukinbudin to Southern Cross road, so it could join up.

"But I had to go another 5-6km off course to the small lakes on my property to use as evaporation pools.

"Now they can't handle the discharge.

"I have spent $300,000 and done everything they have asked of me and still they want me to spend more money."

Mr Nicoletti said the Department of Soil and Land Conservation wanted him to separate the surface water.

"They want me to separate the surface water with balltaps to stop the flow," he said.

"It is ludicrous. Physically, it cannot be done. Our drains would always be full."

Deputy commissioner for Soil and Land Conservation Andrew Watson said his department had stepped in to try and find a resolution.

"Mr Nicoletti started constructing a system without approval and it generated concerns from local authorities and downstream landowners," Mr Watson said.

"We stepped in to broker a deal ‹ to offer alternative suggestions to resolve the downstream issues.

"Mr Nicoletti wants to drain his property and he accepted advice from all quarters.

"He has been doing it on the fly and it needs a bit of tidying up.

"Drainage networks must have an effective discharge point. About 25pc of drainage projects cause friction and division in the community, mostly by operators who dig first and ask questions later.

"Drainage projects often have some undesirable off site aspects and at some stage there is a risk that someone will make a claim for damages."

Mr Watson said the department was waiting for Mr Nicoletti to put forard a new proposal.

"He wanted to go down the major natural drainage line but did not get the consent of his neighbour," he said.

"We have mediated at several meetings and Mr Nicoletti has rejected one approach.

"He has indicated that he is going to come forward with an alternative."

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