Consultation has commenced on a contentious plan to construct new transmission network infrastructure through the Kosciuszko National Park, as the NSW government calls for submissions on the works.
The NSW department of planning has published the environmental impact statement for the proposed Snowy 2.0 Transmission Connection Project, being developed by TransGrid, as construction is underway on the Snowy 2.0 pumped hydro energy storage project.
TransGrid plans to build overhead transmission lines to link the Snowy 2.0 project to the main grid, a plan that has raised the concerns of environmental groups about the impact the power lines will have on the Kosciuszko National Park.
The Snowy 2.0 project will add up to 2,000MW of new generation capacity to the Snowy Hydro scheme, and TransGrid proposes to see two 300kV transmission lines constructed across a nine kilometre portion of the national park, along with a new substation within the Bago State Forest.
The National Parks Association of NSW has called for the power lines to be installed underground, to minimise the amount of land clearing required to be undertaken to clear a path for the network infrastructure.
The group said that a path up to 200 metres wide could be carved through the National Park to accommodate the power lines, and had expressed concerns when the NSW government moved to amend the Plan of Management for Kosciuszko National Park, exempting the Snowy 2.0 development from a requirement that all electricity network infrastructure be built underground.
The call was echoed by a number of independent members of the NSW parliament, who jointly wrote to NSW energy minister Matt Kean saying the network infrastructure plan amounted to vandalism of the national park.
“Such an impact on rare national park is unheard of anywhere else in any modern progressive democracy and in the absence of every effort being taken to avoid the use of overhead transmission, to proceed, could be seen as wilful vandalism,” the group wrote.
In the documentation lodged with the NSW planning department, TransGrid said that it had considered the option of installing the transmission lines underground, but that this would not be without its own disruption to the national park.
“[Underground cables] would require full and permanent impacts to vegetation and potential heritage along the length and width of the trench,” TransGrid’s Environmental Impact Statement says.
“The extensive earthworks would result in a large volume of rock and dirt spoil, including potential Naturally Occurring Asbestos, and significant truck movements to remove spoil and bring in appropriate fill.”
“Overall, the steep terrain and need for extensive excavation work means that this option is not suitable from an engineering or safety perspective and would create an area where only grass would be allowed to revegetate the area to prevent damage to the cables and thermal backfill.”
TransGrid said the construction of overhead power lines was the preferred option, as it would balance the amount of disruption to the national park, with the additional need to navigate difficult terrain.
“Compared to the other options, the overhead transmission solution would involve considerably less excavation works and spoil generation. Additionally, the overhead transmission connection approach would allow for much safer worksites to be established, which would generally be confined to structure locations and along access tracks which have been selected with due consideration to favourable terrain,” the Environmental Impact Statement adds.
The Department of Planning, Industry and Environment has invited submissions on the proposed network infrastructure works, before delivers its assessment of the plans.
The Department’s executive director of energy, industry and compliance, Mike Young, said that TransGrid had been required to consider the various alternatives to its plan to build overhead transmission lines, and assess the potential environmental impacts.
“TransGrid was required to investigate alternative options for delivering the project and demonstrate how impacts on Kosciuszko National Park could be avoided and minimised through project design,” Young said.
“After the exhibition closes, we will review all community submissions received, along with feedback from other government agencies and councils as part of our rigorous assessment process.”
“The Department’s role is to assess the application in consultation with the community, government agencies and stakeholders to achieve the best outcome for the state and the people of NSW,” Young added.
Submissions responding to the environmental impact statement can be made until 5 April.