Critics begged to take a big view

Brad ThompsonThe West Australian

Peter Stubbs is expecting a backlash over plans to increase the capacity of Lake Argyle on safety, environmental and economic grounds.

But the Ord-East Kimberley Expansion Project director believes it is important for critics to look at the big picture.

Mr Stubbs said the development of 100,000ha for agriculture represented a tiny corner of the Kimberley and Northern Territory.

"It is the equivalent of 10 big farms in the Wheatbelt," he said.

"It is important to keep in perspective that the Kimberley is a huge land mass and we are seeking to develop a very small portion."

Mr Stubbs said development was carefully regulated with the 7400ha Goomig site where Kimberley Agricultural Investments has started clearing land subject to an 11,500ha environmental buffer zone.

He also moved to put into perspective plans to increase the volume of water in Lake Argyle by the equivalent of 10 Sydney Harbours by building a bigger barrier across Spillway Creek, one of four spillways built at staggered heights to protect the main dam wall.

"In March 2011, the dam was at 205 per cent full - it is considered full at 10,670gl, we had 21,000gl. We had 9m of water running over Spillway Creek," he said.

"The fourth spillway doesn't even kick in until you get to 38,000gl - Lake Argyle has to be about 400 per cent full before that last spillway even gets activated.

"So you can see safety margins are built into the dam structure."

Mr Stubbs said he was convinced the plan would work because it had been done before.

A wall was built in Spillway Creek in 1996 to double the volume of the lake as part of the hydroelectricity development.

"We have already done it once. Now we are suggesting we do it again on the same creek and the engineering work says we can achieve that very cost-effectively," he said.

Many critics consider the Ord irrigation scheme a white elephant despite all the taxpayer money thrown at it, including $311 million from the State Government in recent years.

Mr Stubbs said the investment of governments in creating Lake Argyle and the irrigation scheme over the decades had paid for itself many times over in terms of the agricultural and tourism value it created.

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