Kiama councillor Mark Way believes the decommissioning of Jerrara Dam is a waste of a community asset and Kiama council has chosen the cheapest rather than the best option for the future of the site.
Last week, Kiama councillors voted 8-1 to decommission Jerrara Dam, arguing other options for the 53-hectare earth-fill embankment dam were too expensive.
In recent years, the dam has regularly been the subject of emergency warnings or ‘‘amber’’ alerts during heavy rain.
While the integrity of the dam wall was never in question, the NSW Dam Safety Committee had concerns – based on updated climate forecasts – that the dam could overtop in extreme weather circumstances.
Kiama council has factored $1.3 million into future budgets for the decommissioning to take place, while cost estimates to raise the embankment or widen the spillway ranged between $3.1 million and $3.6 million.
Cr Way said he was not happy with the decision as he believed the NSW Dam Safety Committee ‘‘had set the bar way too low’’ with its regulations.
‘‘The dam hasn’t overtopped since it was built in 1955,’’ Cr Way said.
‘‘The dam had never been an issue for Kiama council ... they approved the riding for disabled facility under the dam wall.’’
Cr Way believed a reasonable amount of water should remain in the dam.
‘‘Last summer we had RFS volunteers want to use the dam to get water to fight the fire along the escarpment, but ironically there wasn’t enough water in the dam because the dam’s valves had been left open so they had to go further down to Lake Illawarra instead.’’
Kiama council will soon consider alternative proposals for the Jerrara site.
Options include selling or leasing part of the site as farmland, and Kiama Mayor Brian Petschler said all councillors had expressed a desire to see the area used for recreational purposes, with a shallow lake to remain after the decommission takes place in 2015.
During the recent exhibition period, the Illawarra Folk Club lodged a submission in support of the decommissioning to allow for the development of the reserve as a major festival site.
Cr Way said his preference for an environmental fishing park at Jerrara remained.
‘‘It is still possible, but obviously the more water out the less effective it will be,’’ Cr Way said.
Jerrara Dam was built by the NSW government in 1955 to supplement Kiama’s water supply. In 1975, it was no longer needed as a supply dam and was transferred to the council’s ownership.