Page 133: Back to the snowy mountains.
  Jindabyne in the Snowy Mountains  
 

Much as we love our nomadic lifestyle, we wanted a change from the coastal plain and had a yearning to visit the Snowy Mountains again. Rather than drag the 'van up there, we decided to spend three nights in a cabin, leaving the 'van in Bairnsdale. If we'd had wings it would have meant a flight of a mere 180 kilometres. Since we only had wheels the journey consisted of 360 kilometres of easy driving through very pleasant countryside, gaining 3,000 feet in altitude as we drove.

One of the reasons for the trip was to try and discover the truth about the recent water release from Lake Jindabyne into the Snowy River. The fate of the Snowy has been a keen interest of mine since we last visited the mountains in 2007 - see pages 42 and 43.

 
     
  Ready Folks? It's soapbox time.  
 

In case you wonder what all the fuss is about, think of it like this: There was a beautiful river flowing from high in the mountains to the sea. People settled along the river and towns developed and grew. Agriculture prospered. The river contained fish and other flora and fauna depended upon it. Then, politicians decided that this river was to be dammed high up near its source. The water was to be diverted to drive hydro-electric turbines before being released into a completely different river to benefit agriculture in a different region. The people living along the Snowy awoke one morning to find the dam had been closed and 99% of their water had stopped. There was no consideration given to the Snowy, the wildlife or the people who relied on the water.

A fight started to recover their water but the Snowy Mountain Hydro-Electric Authority seemed all powerful and even now, half a century on, the photographs that follow will show what the situation is.

None of this is to denigrate what an amazing project the hydro-electric scheme is, but to take practically all the water from the Snowy River with complete disregard for the towns and people downstream was, and still is, totally unconscionable.

The Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority is made up from three governments; the Federal Government, the N.S.W. State Government and the Victorian State Government. Past research indicated that this authority consisted of a slippery bunch whose idea of the truth seems at considerable variance to the deprived down-river citizens of the Snowy River region. If the Snowy Hydro mob were masters of spin and distorting statistics, then nothing seems to have changed. The people living along the Snowy River are still being ignored and their water is still diverted to the Murray.

The recent water release into the Snowy River appears to have been more of a publicity stunt preceding the Victorian state election than anything else. What follows is a direct quote from "The Age" newspaper of November 5, 2010.

 
     
 


BOOST IN FLOWS FOR PARCHED SNOWY

BILLIONS of litres of water has begun cascading down the mighty Snowy River - the biggest flow the parched system has seen in more than 40 years.

Victorian Premier John Brumby and Water Minister Tim Holding travelled to Jindabyne, in south-east New South Wales, to see water returning to the Snowy.

More than 17 billion litres of water is flowing from the Jindabyne Dam following a deal between the Victorian, NSW and federal governments to repay the Snowy ''water debt'' two years early.

The release, three weeks before the Victorian election, fulfils Labor's 1999 promise to return environmental flows to the river.

 

 
     
 

I changed the text to red for emphasis, Folks, not that you would have missed the implications. But did you ever read such a beat-up? The water release was started on 2nd of November and increased to a maximum over three days. Twelve days later, after the politicians had squeezed every gram of publicity from the water release with graphic pictures of water "cascading down the mighty Snowy River", the Jindabyne Dam was closed again. When Labor politicians promised "to return environmental flows to the river" they conveniently forgot to say it was only for a few days.

On 27th December, six weeks after the dam was closed, we passed over the "mighty Snowy River" at Dalgety, about thirty kilometres downstream from the Jindabyne Dam. It doesn't exactly live up to The Age's description, does it?

 
     
   
  The Snowy River looking downstream from Dalgety bridge. Can you reconcile the newspaper description (above) to this "creek"?  
     
   
  The Snowy from the same bridge looking upstream. The weir clearly shows how much water is (or isn't) flowing.  
     
  The following day we visited the Jindabyne Dam to see for ourselves how much water was being released. The following photo was taken from the dam wall and we could see no other flow (apart from a little seepage which mostly evaporated).  
     
   
  This trickle was all that was being released into the Snowy River.  
     
   
  On the other side of the dam wall was the water that the Snowy wasn't getting. It is destined to be
piped through the mountains and into the Murray River, mainly to supply irrigators.
 
     
 

There's good news however; John Brumby the Victorian Premier and his Water Minister Tim Holding, who travelled all that way at tax payers expense for a photo opportunity were thrown out of office at the state election three weeks later.

The bad news is that they were replaced by two more politicians, albeit of a different political persuasion.

Some good did come from the water release. The course of the Snowy received a much needed flushing. Not that Mr. Brumby et al could give a dam . . . sorry, damn . . . about that.

There is one very small piece of good news for the folks downstream. A new mini hydro-electric generator is being constructed at the site of the Jindabyne Dam. It is due for completion in 2011 and its outflow water will drain into the Snowy river bed. The generator will require more water than is currently being released which must be good news for the river . . . unless it's just another slippery twist by Snowy Hydro to con the population downstream.

 
     
  End soapbox time. now some pictures.  
     
   
  The dam end of Lake Jindabyne showing (centre) the new inlet works for the mini hydro-electric generator.  
     
   
  An almost dry Lake Jindabyne as we saw it in 2007 . . .  
     
   
  . . . and 85% full as we saw it in December, 2010.  
     
   
  A mature tree that once grew on the shore of Lake Jindabyne. Has it ever had its feet wet before, I wonder?  
     
   
  In the trees is the village of East Jindabyne.  
     
 

Do you remember the little town of Adaminaby? It was uprooted lock, stock and barrel when the Hydro-Electric Scheme planners decided to flood the valley in which it was situated. Over one hundred buildings were relocated ten kilometres away, including Saint John's Anglican Church (right).

New Adaminaby became one of Australia's highest towns at an elevation of 3,337 feet above sea level.

We called in at New Adaminaby for a coffee and discovered the pretty little church which was first built in 1906, then relocated to its present location in 1956. What a job that must have been.

 
     
   
  We've been wrong before when we thought we saw snow, but it looks like there is still some up there in sheltered pockets.