Second Perth desalination plant gets government approval

The Australian government has given conditional approval to the Southern Seawater Desalination Project at Binningup, Western Australia, but has imposed "strict" conditions to minimise impacts on nationally threatened and migratory species.

The Water Corporation will now move immediately to formalise the design and construction, and operations and maintenance contracts with the Southern SeaWater Alliance (SSWA) led by Spanish companies Tecnicas Reunidas and Valoriza Agua.

The 23 conditions imposed on the 137,000 m³/d project by the Department of Environment, Water, Heritage & the Arts (DEWHA) particularly focus on the listed black cockatoo species, the western ringtail possum and whales.

The project design was negotiated and strict conditions were put in place relating to revegetation work to preserve important habitat for the species. As a result, significantly more habitat will be established than will be cleared.
The approval conditions include a requirement to preserve and revegetate nearly 47 ha of habitat at the plant site. A total of 7 ha will be permanently cleared.

The conditions also require 7 ha to be established at the water-tank site, where 13 trees will be removed or pruned.

The Water Corporation must prepare a management plan for the revegetation work detailing how and when the site will be revegetated, and ensure listed orchid species along the pipeline route are protected during construction. The corporation says that, while investigative geotechnical work will commence immediately on site, bulk earthworks and construction will not commence until its revegetation plan is approved by DEWHA. This approval is expected over the coming weeks.

Strict conditions also apply to the project's marine construction activities. Exclusion zones must be set up during marine construction, and a qualified marine mammal observer will be required to watch for any whales or turtles entering these areas.

If any of the listed marine species are spotted, work must stop immediately and cannot resume until the species has been out of the zone for at least half an hour.

The department has also imposed a condition requiring a marine management plan to be prepared in case the Water Corporation needs to carry out blasting during marine construction. If any blasting is needed, DEWHA will need to see all the details beforehand, and there will be restrictions on when and how it can happen.

The approval conditions can be found on the government website.

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