The Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme:

  How did it Manage Without an EIA?

 

Michael Bergmann

Discussion Paper No. 60

February 1999

ISBN: 0 7315 3403 4

ISSN: 1 030 2190

Abstract
The background to the establishment of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme is examined, with an eye to any environmental considerations taken into account, either during planning, establishment or construction. The environmental assessment processes involved in the establishment of such a scheme today are, naturally, more involved than those surround the initial planning of the Scheme. Had these modern processes existed at the time of the establishment of the Scheme, a different outcome could have arisen. The ANZECC guidelines are used as a framework with which to examine the establishment of the Scheme. The current state of the environment surrounding the Scheme is examined, and while some areas are found wanting, others, namely concerns due to erosion, have been adequately examined with appropriate safeguards implemented. The modern framework of Environmental Impact Assessments prove to offer valuable insights in the implementation of large scale projects, and illuminates the processes by which the Scheme managed without an EIA, namely by concentrating on only those aspects of the natural environment which could directly feedback into and effect the viability of the Scheme.

This paper is a revised version of a project completed as part of the requirements for the degree of Master in Public Policy, Australian National University.

Contents


Introduction

 

PART ONE:

 

Background to the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme
PART TWO:

 

Environmental Considerations during Establishment
PART THREE:

 

The Process Today
PART FOUR:

 

The State of the Environment
PART FIVE:

 

Conclusion
Bibliography

 

Public Policy Discussion Papers

Introduction

The Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme was approved by the Commonwealth in July of 1949, with the first power project brought into operation in February of 1955. In 1974 legislation was passed which could have conceivably altered one of the biggest engineering projects of its time, had it existed during the establishment of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme. The Commonwealth's Environmental Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act 1974 has at its core the system of environmental examination known as an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), which could have imposed greater environmental controls and scrutiny over all aspects of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme.
Before examining what impact such a system could have had on the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme, it is first essential to have a clear understanding of the Scheme itself, and in the case of this paper, to have a clear understanding of the ideas and concepts surrounding the inception and establishment of the Scheme. Then, it will be possible to examine what environmental considerations were taken into account during the formation of the project, as well as the more interesting question of why. An analysis of the environmental framework which surrounds Commonwealth projects today will give a clearer insight into any deficiencies which may have existed in the planning processes of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme, in addition to allowing an insight into the merits of today's methods of environmental scrutiny. This will be possible through an examination of the state of the environment surrounding the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme today. A realisation of not only the environmental consequences of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme's establishment without an Environmental Impact Assessment, but also of the merits of the Environmental Impact Assessment processes as applied to large scale national projects will be achieved.

Part One
Background to the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme.

The Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme (hereafter referred to as 'the Scheme') was and remains one of the largest engineering and construction projects in the world. The Scheme's two major functions are the generation of electricity and the provision of water for irrigation. This is set out under the heading of 'Purpose' in the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority's (hereafter refereed to as the Authority) latest Annual Report.
The fundamental purpose of the Snowy Mountains Scheme, under present legislation, is to collect, store and divert water for irrigation and electricity generation to meet customer requirements consistent with safety, asset security, economic and environmental requirements. 1

However, this was not always the listed intended purpose of the Scheme. The earliest suggestions for something resembling the Scheme are unclear, with many individuals making the claim that they thought of it, or something like it, first. This is perhaps a moot point, as the diversion of waterways through canals and aqueducts is a practice considerably older than European settlement of Australia. The first firm suggestion that is actually recorded is generally attributed to J S Gregory in 1913 at an Interstate Conference of Engineers, where he put forward a plan to direct the Snowy River to the Murray catchment for irrigation purposes, however at the time this was deemed not financially practicable. 2 Initially irrigation was the principal motive behind the diversion of water away from the coastal plains, where rainfall was considered ample, towards the drier inland plains. This had come about from an 1884 New South Wales Royal Commission on the Conservation of Water, whereby the Commission decided that one of the most attractive methods of supplying extra water resources to both the Murray and Murrumbidgee would be by storing up water in the mountainous country near their sources and allowing it to flow into the rivers when the supply in them is low. 3 In turn, the Commission gives credit for the concept to P F Adams, who was the Surveyor-General for the colony of NSW. The earliest suggestions for the use of hydro-electricity, although naturally it was not described in quite those terms, is generally credited to F B Gipps, nephew of Governor Gipps, and a well respected civil engineer, when in 1885 he wrote in a report on the upper Murray Valley;
In consideration that the value of every 100 feet of fall of the above stream [the Tooma River] would represent over 2,000 horsepower, in a commercial aspect such a scheme must be highly profitable while such application would in nowise prevent the water supply afterwards being equally available for irrigation. 4
Ronald Lewis, Director General of the then Commonwealth Works Department credits the initial plan for hydro-electricity to William Corin, from the NSW Department of Public Works, when he estimated in 1920, after considerable survey work, that the total electrical capacity of the Scheme would be 1,500,000 kilowatts, somewhat short of the final 5,128 gigawatt hours produced annually. Lewis also credits some of the earliest Commonwealth involvement in the Scheme's inception to a letter dated 20th of December 1942 from the Jindabyne Branch of the Agricultural Bureau of NSW to Prime Minister John Curtin, in which it was expressed that the Snowy River Hydro-electric Scheme stands alone as a beneficial national undertaking. 5 However, this would appear to ignore the meetings between Prime Minister Deakin and the Premier of NSW Charles Wade in 1909. Deakin and Wade met on the suggestion of David Miller, Secretary to the Department of Home Affairs, who had been closely following the works of Scrivener. Eventually, an inter-parliamentary agreement was reached, ratified by both Commonwealth and NSW parliaments, which stated that the Commonwealth had;
without payment therefor the right to use the waters of the Snowy River, and such other rivers as may be agreed upon or in default of agreement may be determined by arbitration, for the generation of electricity for the purposes of the [Federal Capital, later Australian Capital] Territory, and to construct the works necessary for that purpose, and to conduct the electricity so generated for the Territory. 6

This agreement proves great foresight, as will be seen later.

The Political Arena.
Perhaps more daunting than the engineering challenges were the political ones. Three states, in addition to the Commonwealth, would need to be involved in the Scheme's Development. The Snowy River flows through the states of New South Wales and Victoria, with the Murray and the Murrumbidgee bringing South Australia into the equation.
The Scheme commenced in 1949, with the tabling of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Power Act 1949 (hereafter referred to as 'the Act'), and construction commenced in the same year, with the official opening of building works by the Governor-General, the Rt Hon. W.J. McKell and the Prime Minister, the Rt Hon. J.B. Chifley. Chifley saw in the Australian Constitution a simple solution to the bickering that was occurring between the States. Each State wanted the greatest benefit to lie, understandably, within their own borders. NSW stated that as the construction and rainfall was occurring within their territory, they should get preferential treatment. Victoria was of the opinion that a Royal Commission should be established to examine the issue 7 , with South Australia of the opinion that navigation on the Murray River would be severely jeopardised 8 . The young Australian Capital Territory was also very interested in having ready electricity and water available. There was one ready made solution for the Prime Minister, to invoke the 1909 agreement made between the Commonwealth and NSW, however that would still leave Victoria and South Australia to deal with. However, lurking in the Constitution was a solution, and that was to make the Scheme a national defence issue. A conversation related by the Governor-General between himself and the Prime Minster summed up the attitude of the day;
McKell - The Snowy is a national work and as Prime Minister I think you should do it as a national work,
Chifley - Yes, but you know I haven't got the constitutional authority.
McKell - I know you haven't, but do it. Go ahead and do it. And let's see what will happen. Don't forget this Ben, under this Scheme we are going to build generating stations thousands of feet under the earth.
Chifley - What are we going to do that for?
McKell - So the bombs can't get at them. This is a defence job. This is for the defence of Australia. 9

Indeed, the Act was introduced into the Federal Parliament under the Commonwealth's defence power. It was fortunate that the validity of the Act was never challenged, as it would very probably have proved to be unconstitutional. It was not until 1959, ten years later, that the Act was underpinned by appropriate State legislation, with the Snowy Mountains Agreement becoming effective from the 2nd of January 1959. It was during this time of constitutional limbo that the Australian Workers Union secured more favourable working conditions under the threat of a constitutional challenge to the Authorities validity. 10


Construction of the Scheme.
The first phase of the Scheme was completed with the official opening of the Guthega power station on the 23rd of April, 1955. This section of the Scheme today only produces around 2% of the total capacity, however as a symbol Guthega was more than successful. Antipathy and in some cases hostility had been building up around what was becoming seen as an extremely expensive and controversial scheme, and it was determined that something, anything, needed to be completed and completed fast. Prime Minister Menzies, having been critical of the hasty implementation of the Scheme and in particular the use of the defence powers, was on hand to turn the switch to produce the Scheme's first power, stating This is a very dramatic and exciting occasion. 11 Progress proceeded at a steady pace, and by 1961 the contracts for the first diversion of the Snowy River to the Murray River were ready to be let out. The Tumut 1 power station was completed and visited by Queen Elizabeth II on the 10th of March, 1963. The next landmark event was the building of the Jindabyne Dam, and the subsequent flooding of what was soon to become Old Jindabyne. Construction was completed in less than 18 months by the American companies Utah Australia and Brown & Root Sudamericana. A decision was taken to pump water up from the Jindabyne Storage to the transmountain tunnel at Island Bend, which necessitated the installation of an emergency overflow mechanism (See Appendix 4), which will be discussed later in this paper. The Scheme was finally completed in 1974, and eventually comprised 7 power stations, 16 dams and 140 kilometres of tunnel. 1974 was the same year as the introduction of the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act, and as such, only one area of the Scheme has ever been examined under the regulations in the EPIP Act, EIS No. 147, the Snowy Mountains Precipitation Enhancement Experiment, in 1991.

Part Two
Environmental Considerations during Establishment.

Environmental considerations were not on the top of the list of items to be closely examined during the establishment of the Scheme. This report is not aiming to place a value judgement upon actions taken using the benefit of hindsight, merely to state factually what considerations were made towards the environment during the planning and development of the Snowy Mountains Scheme.

Water Conservation.
One of the earliest plans for water conservation regarding a project resembling the Scheme came about before the turn of the century. Colonel FJ Home, in his Report on the Prospects of Irrigation and Water Conservation in NSW 12 . While examining possible water sources for irrigation, Home briefly examined the prospect of diverting the Snowy River, however came to the conclusion that due to high costs and maintenance issues, The idea of utilising the water of the Snowy River outside its own valley must therefore be abandoned. The only concept of water conservation raised by Home was that of how best the water could be conserved until such time as the most could be drawn from it. Any notion of water conservation to maintain river quality, biodiversity or ecological impacts was foreign to the report.
Many of the environmental concerns raised during the planning process of the Scheme, around the mid to late 1940s, could be seen to contain ulterior motives. There were issues raised, especially regarding water conservation and usage, during many meetings of various committees set up to examine the feasibility of the Scheme. A particularly good example of this was the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission meeting held on the 13th of June, in 1946. The subject of the meeting was given as The Utilization of the Waters of the Snowy River, and as such, many of the minutes show that on the face of things, at least some environmental considerations were being studied. However, after closer examination it becomes clear that the environment was being used more as a means to an end. Victoria and South Australia in particular, did not want the bulk of water captured by the Scheme to benefit solely New South Wales, and so were pointing out that NSW would probably waste it anyway. A very large proportion of the flow of the Murrumbidgee River is now used by NSW for rice production which is an exceedingly wasteful way of using water resources. 13 That the environment was being used more as a bargaining chip, rather than a true matter of concern, becomes apparent when later in the meeting it is stated that, The needs of areas on which people are already established should be regarded as more urgent than the needs of areas which are not yet populated. 14 The land, or water for that matter, held little value if not being used for 'productive' purposes.
Similar discussions were being conducted around the same time, in the Federal Cabinet room. Environmental considerations were given a low priority, a much higher one being the means through which the Commonwealth could gain control of the Scheme. A sub-committee was established to examine the question of water conservation, however the definition of conservation had not changed greatly since the first investigation into the Snowy River, in 1897. Conservation was still seen as the best and most efficient way to get the water from the Snowy River to areas of irrigation. These committees then reported back to the Cabinet, with cursory findings.
A preview of the findings of the various sub-committees appointed to specialise on different aspects of the scheme, such as water conservation, electricity etc., and the additional information obtained from aerial and field surveys, test bores, and further gaugings, has enabled the original proposals for the diversion of the Snowy to the Murray and the Murrumbidgee to be refined and extended. 15

This extension and refinement of the proposal did little to change the underlying basis of the Scheme for anything resembling environmental grounds. The final legislative framework surrounding the Scheme, The Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Power Act 1949, did incorporate some environmental considerations, mostly concerning erosion and siltation. However, it will be shown that the reasons behind this were more than likely not based on any respect for the natural environment.

Environmental Considerations at the Scheme.
While politically little concern was given to the natural environment, either in the immediate surrounding area or downstream, those working directly on the Scheme did in fact take environmental considerations into account. The first major project on the Snowy-Tumut side of the development, the Tumut 1 project, elicited much examination by the engineers and scientists of the Scheme relating to issues such as water runoff, erosion and soil conservation. In a memorandum sent to the Chief Investigation Engineer from an employee of the Scheme, David Anderson, it becomes apparent that during the 1950s, more attention was being paid to potential problems such a large scheme could have on the environment.
"The acceleration of bank erosion due to fluctuating releases. While provision of a regulating pondage will keep this effect to a minimum on the Upper Murray it is likely to be a problem on the Lower Tumut, probably a more troublesome one than increased flooding. Some field surveys of this problem would be desirable before T.1 [Tumut One] comes into operation." 16

During construction of Tumut 2, further precautions were taken concerning soil conservation, however it will be shown later that there may have been other factors coming into play here.

Part Three
The Process Today.

Environmental impact assessments during the time of the setting up of the Snowy Mountains Scheme were almost completely State based, with each State having its own methods, guidelines and criteria. It was not until the late 1960s, early 1970s, that the States and Commonwealth governments decided that some form of unified stance was required. However, it was at The Australian Environmental Council, a meeting of the relevant environmental ministers from around Australia where the Commonwealth decided that uniformity in legislation was not possible, and set out to create Federal legislation governing Commonwealth activities. This was the beginning of the Environmental Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act 1974 (hereafter referred to as the EPIP Act).
The processes involved in getting such a scheme as the Snowy Mountains Scheme into operation today are many and varied. One of the steps would be the completion of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).
As stated earlier, the Commonwealth designated the Snowy Scheme as a national defence project, arguably so that the Federal Government could have a greater say over the implementation and operation of the Scheme. If such a tactic were tried today, many other considerations would need to be taken into account. The EPIP Act states that a Commonwealth EIA must be undertaken for, proposals carried out by Commonwealth departments and authorities or which have specific Commonwealth funding, such as defence projects 17 So today, by ensuring that the Commonwealth had a greater say in the running of the Scheme by invoking the defence powers, the Federal Government would have also ensured that a full Commonwealth EIA would be carried out. Seven criteria would need to be addressed under such an examination, taken from the Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council's Guidelines and Criteria for Determining the Need for and Level of Environment Impact Assessment in Australia, prepared in June 1996. It must be remembered here that these criteria are only set out as questions that should be posed, and as guidelines to evaluate individual proposals, and would not necessarily constitute the entirety of the EIA process.

The ANZECC Guidelines.
1. The character of the receiving environment
.
In the case of the Snowy Scheme, this would involve an examination of the possible impacts on surrounding National Parks, such as the Kosciuszko. The conditions of the area would need to be taken into account, such as the fragility of alpine flora. Offsite characteristics would also need to be taken into account, which would include any downstream effects - which would be a considerable undertaking. The receiving environment was closely examined during the planning of the Scheme. As part of geological surveys, the area immediately surrounding the Scheme was examined to ensure the viability of the Scheme, as well hydrological studies were carried out to measure stream and river flows. This was not, however, carried out with an eye for possible negative environmental impacts, but rather to ascertain the steps needed to instil the will of the engineers over the natural landscape. The senior surveyor in 1950 was credited as expressing that [o]nce the giddy depths of the grandest valleys were filled with water, the wilderness would be conquered, the mountains tamed and forever subservient to the needs of humanity. 18

2. The potential impacts of the proposal.
Here the construction and operation (as well as any decommissioning) of the Scheme would need to studied. This includes a number of factors.

  1. Physical factors
The significant land disturbance involved in the construction of the Scheme would need to be assessed, as would any subsequent possibility of erosion. The alteration of water courses also falls under this category, another major component of the Scheme, as well as any effect on water quality and quantity. The examination of the Scheme's effect on the Snowy River in particular would be a large part of this stage of the EIA. As stated previously, hydrological surveys were carried out, but not following EIA practices. As well, the Authority has stated that they have no direct control over the catchment area, and as such can only liaise and co-operate with the relevant State government agencies. 19

  1. Biological factors
The largest factor here would be the alteration to the hydrological regime of the surrounding areas, as well as downstream effects. The Scheme’s impact on biodiversity and ecological processes, as well as impacts that may effect those life support systems would be required to be considered. These were not adequately taken into consideration during the formation and planning stages of the Scheme. Biological factors were considered as a side issue during examinations of erosion and grazing, but were not examined in their own right.
  1. Land use
The Scheme’s most important feature here is the degree to which it limits the use of natural resources, notably water, for other uses. The Jindabyne Dam’s impact on the Snowy River, and subsequently on those land holders who rely on water throughout the high country area, is a major one, and would need to be thoroughly examined in any EIA. This was of major consideration during the planning of the Scheme, with many meetings and studies commissioned examining the share of water, electrical power and responsibility among the states involved, as well as with the Commonwealth.
  1. Resource use
This is similar to land use, except that it encompasses all resources which may be effected by the Scheme. The one resource which is traditionally associated with dispute, and over which wars have been fought throughout the ages, is water. Resource use, and in particular water, was also closely examined during the planning stages of the Snowy Scheme, with the first being the River Murray Commission, established in 1917, consisting of representatives from the Commonwealth, NSW, Victoria and South Australia. As this was, and remains, such a politically sensitive issue, it is perhaps not surprising that it is this area which had the closest scrutiny.
  1. Community
The relocation of the entire town of Adaminaby would be seen as the impact of the Scheme on a community taken to its extreme. However, smaller changes to communities downstream from the Scheme would also need to be considered, including changing economic stability, community concern and changing levels of community resources.
  1. Infrastructure
Any increase in the demand for services and infrastructure would be addressed here. This would include the massive influx of personnel which surrounded the Snowy Scheme, and the increasing demands this would place on the surrounding towns’ infrastructure.
  1. Heritage
Aboriginal habitation of the high country, especially during the Bogong moth season, is well known, and was understood during the planning stages of the Scheme. Any restriction the Scheme might place on the traditional practices of the indigenous peoples of the area would need to be considered. The impact of the Scheme would have to be taken into account on not only existing communities, but also on the possibility of damage to anthropological or archaeological sites or relics.
  1. Aesthetics
“The degradation of scenic amenity” is how the ANZECC defines this criterion, which can make it a somewhat problematic one. One person's spillover tower is another person's historic landmark. Suffice to say that questions of views and sight lines would come under this heading. Aesthetics is another area where the Authority was keen to be seen as doing its bit for the environment. The example used earlier, of the surge tank near the intake for the Jindabyne-Island Bend tunnel, is an apt one. In an attempt to as closely match the landscape as possible, the tank was sent to the Aesthetics Committee of the Authority, where it was decided to colour it very dark grey, and to give it a rough texture. A technique with admirable results.

3. Resilience of natural and human environments to cope with change.
It is here where the question of intergenerational equity needs to be addressed. Will the Snowy Scheme have an impact on the natural and human environments which is irreversible? Today’s Australian Intergovernmental Agreement on the Environment plays an important part in this stage of an EIA, and states that the present generation should ensure that the health, diversity and productivity of the environment is maintained or enhanced for the benefit of future generations. 20

4. Confidence of predicted impacts
This is where the level of knowledge regarding all aspects of the Scheme would need to be examined, including knowledge of the ecosystem, the design and project itself, level of change to be imposed on the environment, monitoring systems and community values.

5 & 6. Presence of planning, policy framework and other statutory decision making procedures.
Existing legislation, either zoning, statutory approval, standard codes and guidelines, as well as existing long term policy framework affecting the Scheme would all need to be taken into account under this heading. It could be said that the Federal Government had a novel interpretation of existing legislation, through the use and implementation of the Commonwealth's defence powers to ensure Commonwealth control over the Snowy Scheme, however it is more a study of existing environmental legislation, which largely did not exist on national scale during the establishment of the Snowy Scheme.

7. Degree of public interest
The possible level of public controversy over the Scheme would be examined under this heading, as well as the possible generation or maintenance of social inequity. While there was a good deal of public debate surrounding the economics of the Scheme, as well as the subsequent influx of migrant labour, there was very little public outcry regarding the environmental aspects of the Scheme. After the initial foundation of the Scheme, most of the public outcry during the 1960s was for greater use of the Scheme, as expressed in Riverina Advocate, 25th of June 1965, under the heading 'Draw Water From 'Bank Account''.
Before the Snowy Scheme there was no doubt that, in a drought such as this, water for irrigation would have been restricted, Mr. Grasby (MLA) went on. The whole purpose of the scheme, however, was to provide a drought bank account for critical years such as this. "If the water is not to be made available to maintain and if necessary to increase production in a drought, then the main value of the Snowy Scheme has been lost," he declared. This is the first opportunity the Snowy Scheme and the irrigation areas have had as a team to demonstrate their high value to the nation by keeping its city dwellers fed in a crisis such as this." 21

The Environmental Impact Statement.
After the level of assessment is determined, a number of different levels of assessments are possible; an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), a Public Environment Report (PER), an examination by a Commission of Inquiry, or an assessment following the publication and public review of either an EIS or PER. In the case of the Snowy Scheme, it is likely that a EIS would be called, as the issues are wide ranging, and the environmental impacts are easily deemed to be potentially significant, as has been seen by the response to ANZECC's guidelines. The proponent of the proposal would then have the responsibility of producing the EIS, in the case of the Snowy Scheme, this would be the responsibility of the Commonwealth ministry or agency deemed to be the lead agency, in consultation with Environment Australia. The required contents of such a statement are to;
(a)state the objectives of the proposed action;
(b)analyse the need for the proposed action;
(c)indicate the consequences of not taking the proposed action;
(d)contain a description of the proposed action;
(e)include information and technical data adequate to permit a careful assessment of the impact on the environment of the proposed action.,
(f)examine any feasible and prudent alternative to the proposed action;
(g)describe the environment that is likely to be affected by the proposed action and by any feasible and prudent alternative to the proposed action;

  1. assess the potential impact on the environment of the proposed action and of any feasible and prudent alternative to the proposed action, including, in particular, the primary, secondary, short-term, long-term, adverse and beneficial effects on the environment of the proposed action and of any feasible and prudent alternative to the proposed action;
  2. outline the reasons for the choice of the proposed action;
  3. describe, and assess the effectiveness of, any safeguards or standards for the protection of the environment intended to be adopted or applied in respect of the proposed action, including the means of implementing, and the monitoring arrangements to be adopted in respect of, such safeguards or standards; and
(k) cite any sources of information relied upon in, and outline any consultations during, the preparation of the environmental impact statement. 22

The draft EIS is then made available for public comment, after which the final report if drafted, which is then assessed by Environment Australia. After the assessment, the action Minister, that is the Minister responsible for the Commonwealth action, makes the final decision as to whether the project goes ahead, proceeds subject to conditions, or is rejected. At any time before or during the process, the Minister responsible for administering the Act may exempt the proposal from undergoing an EIA, under a number of grounds. These are that it may be prejudicial to national security, to the interests of Australia, adversely affect commercial or other confidences, or are otherwise contrary to the public interest. The Minister is not under obligation to publish exemptions if s/he believes that it would be contrary to the public interest to do so. Judging by the Commonwealth Government's willingness to introduce the Snowy Scheme under the defence powers, it might have been the case that had such environmental legislation existed during the implementation of the Scheme, it could have been by-passed in the interests of the nation.

Possible Outcomes
Were such a scheme, with the scale and scope of the Snowy Scheme, proposed under a modern EIA framework, the results could conceivably go two ways. The first scenario is that the Snowy Scheme could be seen as so big and so important to the nation that it would be forced through with only a cursory examination. As stated previously, provisions exist within the legislation for any project where an EIA is judged to be contrary to the public interest to be exempted. This would probably have been the case had today's legislation existed during the 1940s/50s, as can be seen by the government of the day's eagerness in implementing the Scheme under the Commonwealth's defence power. Another way of looking at it is to ask what would have been the case had the 1940s/50s scheme been introduced during the 1980s or 90s. With the growing influence and acceptance of environmental politics and awareness, it is unlikely, though not outside the realms of possibility, that any government would effectively ignore environmental safeguards and undertake such a project without at least a pretence of undertaking an environmental impact assessment.
The second scenario is that the Snowy Scheme is so big, and would impact upon the environment in so many different and possibly unpredictable ways, that under a modern EIA framework it would never get off the ground. The processes involved in assessing the potential impacts of the proposal could conceivably take so long that it might be deemed as unfeasible. Of course, these two scenarios are the extremes, and the more likely outcome would be somewhere in between - a compromise between expedience in implementing the project, and satisfying modern demands for a thorough investigation of the potential environmental impacts.

Part Four
The State of the Environment.

Erosion.
Throughout the planning and construction of the Snowy Scheme erosion was seen as the most important aspect of the environment in terms of conservation. Erosion was the only environmental concern that was raised independently throughout the planning process, with other concerns such as water use reserved for inter-state rivalry. Erosion due to human intervention was already a major problem in the Snowy Mountains. During the second half of the nineteenth century, the alpine highlands were being used more and more as grazing lands and as stock routes. By 1851 the district of Cooma consisted of 97,764 head of cattle, and 32,783 sheep. 23 These figures must be taken with a grain of salt, as prior to 1889 the Snowy Mountains were open to all, with summer grazing particularly popular with those in surrounding areas during times of drought, where the lush hills and valleys often remained green and fertile. As such, over-grazing was common. To compound the problems, the practice of burning off dry grass to encourage green shoots to appear was also widely undertaken. The problems with grazing were not mitigated with the introduction of pastoral leases, as Sir William McKell discovered during a visit to the area in 1941.
We camped over the area and I was appalled. You see the whole area - about one million and a quarter acres - was subject to leases, grazing leases. The large graziers had very big areas down there and they could put as much stock as they liked on them. The whole area was being completely eroded. I saw all that sphagnum moss and the snowgrass and it was all getting eaten out. Well, that was the lifeblood of the Snowy because that moss and grass holds the water and lets it seep out slowly. 24

It was not for purely altruistic reasons that the Snowy Authority set out to correct years of neglect and erosion, which is what they did. Large scale plantings of native grasses, regeneration of native plants and providing compensation to those with grazing leases to keep their stock below 4500 feet as well as buying out grazing leases all occurred. If erosion were to continue unchecked at the rate it had been, in very little time siltation of the rivers, creeks and waterways which fed the Scheme would occur, as well as siltation of the storage areas, and would greatly degrade the efficiency, and possibly effect the entire viability of the Scheme. For this reason, erosion is seen as being under control in regards to the Scheme's operation, with erosion protection works constantly being carried out, including bank stabilisation and river improvement projects. 25

Water.
It is the Snowy Scheme’s impact on river flows that has raised the most environmental concerns. The Snowy River has received particular public attention recently, however it is also the Eucumbene, Murrumbidgee, Tooma, Tumut, Swampy Plain, Geehi and Murray Rivers that are affected by the Scheme. These are currently the subject of an intergovernmental inquiry, the Snowy Water Inquiry, by the New South Wales and Victorian governments 26 , however it is commonly accepted that it is the Snowy River which suffers most heavily, with dramatic changes having occurred since the inception of the Scheme. The aspects of the Scheme which have the biggest impact on the Snowy River are the Eucumbene and Jindabyne Dams, and the Guthega and Island Bend Pondages. The releases from these dams were agreed upon in 1960 by the then NSW Water Conservation and Irrigation Commission, and have not been changed subsequently. Only riparian users were considered, with no account taken of amount of water flow required to maintain ecosystems. The minimum release requirement is for a flow of 24.5 ML/day downstream at Dalgety 27 , with the average annual flow in the Snowy River below Jindabyne being about 1% of what the natural flow was before the construction of the dams and pondages. Together with tributary inflows, the Snowy River has flows of approximately half of levels before the Scheme. 28 Perhaps more important than annual flow rates is the Scheme's impact on seasonal flows. Due to the relatively steady flow rates released by the Scheme, seasonal flooding, which was a common feature especially during the spring months with the melting of the winter snows, has all but been eliminated. There has been a reduction of 40-80% in typical flushing flows in each month at Jarrahmond, combined periods of low flow (flow remaining below 225 ML/day for 10+ days) having increased from once every 20 years to once every 1.4 years. 29 This has had a marked impact on the makeup of the Snowy River, leaving a flat, homogenous river bed, where once there existed an assorted pattern of deep pools and fast flowing areas. This has a significant negative effect on biodiversity, with large changes in habitat conditions. Salinity has also increased at the mouth of the river, as well as around the outflow estuary at Marlo, with the Snowy River Interstate Catchment Co-ordination Committee reporting that excess salinity now effects approximately 550ha of agricultural land around the mouth of the Snowy River, with the saline wedge having progressed several kilometres upstream.

Biology.
Biological indicators surrounding the Scheme are many and varied. In the waterways these consist of stream bank vegetation, water plants, water animals including both fish and macroinvertebrates and bacteria. Biological factors relating to the Snowy Scheme are associated with two major areas; the impact the Scheme has on river flows and subsequently on biodiversity in waterways, and the direct impact by the Scheme itself on the surrounding ecology. Populations of species, as well as diversity of species, is lower in the waters downstream from the dams since the establishment of the Scheme. Due to the changes in flow rates, the numbers of macroinvertebrates and insects has declined dramatically, as well as the numbers of species being less diverse. 30 This in turn can have significant effects further up the food chain, with those animals that rely on high levels of macroinvertebrates suffering. As well, the Scheme can affect these species directly, with the Snowy River Interstate Catchment Coordination Committee reporting that reduced frequency of flushing flows has increased sediment in the lower Snowy River and reduced the number and depth of water holes thought to be critical to breeding for Australian bass, though there is conflicting evidence about sedimentation characteristics since the construction of the scheme.
The Authority has been more careful in respect to somewhat larger and more publicly visible fauna in the immediate surrounds of the Scheme. Recently, special tunnels have been constructed under roadways in an attempt to grant the Pygmy Possum greater mobility and reduce the effects of habitat fragmentation. 31 This project, a joint effort with the National Parks and Wildlife Service, is an inexpensive and reasonably effective method of improving the prospects of the Pygmy Possum, and has received considerable public exposure. The Authority was also involved in the surveying of the habitat of the Spotted Tree Frog, through the use of the Authorities helicopter, in order to start work on estimations for the species potential for future recovery. 32

Part Five - Conclusion

The Snowy Scheme has often been seen as a prime example of a ‘nation-building’ project. A grand scheme, demonstrating the foresight of the planners, where the next generation will be enjoying the benefits for years to come. In the case of the natural environment, this was not exactly the case. The planning, inception, establishment, construction and operation of the Scheme had little in the way of what we would call today standard environmental safeguards. There were committees formed to examine water conservation, but merely as the most efficient way of providing the resource to those who would then produce something of value with it. There was much discussion regarding erosion, and that was reflected in the Snowy Act of 1949 itself. However, this was for the purpose of ensuring the long term viability of the Scheme, not for any feelings or beliefs that the environment should be protected for reasons outside productivity. The character of the receiving environment was studied and examined, geological and hydrological surveys being undertaken, but these were not done as part of a systematic analysis of any environmental concerns. Some of the potential impacts of the Scheme were taken into account, but only as part of examining feedback loops, to see how the environment would in turn effect the efficiency of the Scheme.
Some aspects of the environment seemed to have managed quite well. Not surprisingly, these are the areas which if left unattended could affect the viability of the Scheme. Erosion was always an important issue, with siltation being a possible problem to the Scheme right form the outset, and the results reflect this, with very little environmental concerns due to erosion from the Scheme emerging. Those areas which have been seen to have suffered, namely water flows in the Snowy River and the resulting loss in biodiversity and salination, did not directly feedback into the Scheme itself, and as such were of little concern to the planners during the establishment of the Scheme. The whole concept of the inter-valley transfer of water was to add more to the Murray and Murrimbidgee, by removing it from the Snowy. There was always going to be obvious winners and losers.
In some areas it is clear that an EIA would have proved valuable to the planners of the Scheme, whereas in others the receiving environment has managed quite well without detailed examination prior to implementation. Combined with this are the economic and social benefits the Scheme has conferred to those on the receiving end of the inter-valley transfer of water, as well as the production of relatively inexpensive and, compared with other forms of production, less polluting electricity.

How did the Snowy Scheme manage without an EIA? By focusing on only those areas of the environment which could directly affect the viability of the Scheme, and effectively ignoring those that did not. This clearly shows the benefits and importance of the modern EIA framework, where even those aspects of a project which do not appear to directly influence the environment are taken into account during the establishment phase of the undertaking.

Bibliography

Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council, 1996, Guidelines and Criteria for Determining the Need for and Level of Environmental Impact Assessment in Australia, ANZECC Working Groups on National Environmental Impact Assessment.

Collis, Brad, 1990, Snowy: The Making of Modern Australia, Sydney, Hodder & Stoughton.

Diesendorf, W., (ed.), 1961, The Snowy Mountains Scheme : Phase 1 - The Upper Tumut Projects, Sydney, Horwitz Publications.

Diesendorf, Mark, & Hamilton, Clive (eds.), 1997, Human Ecology, Human Economy, St. Leonards, Allen & Unwin.

Environment Australia, 1997, Commonwealth Environmental Impact Assessment : An outline of the Commonwealth Environment Impact Assessment process., Canberra, Environment Australia.

Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act 1974.

Lewis, Ronald, 1964, Development of the Snowy River Scheme: The Evolution and Triggering off of the Scheme with Background to the Technical Reports of the 1946-1950 Investigations by the Commonwealth and States Snowy River Committee, Department of Construction.

Lowe, Ian (Chair), 1997, State of the Environment 1996, Canberra, Environment Australia, http://www.environment.gov.au/epcg/soe/soe96

National Archives of Australia, A2618/1, History of South Eastern Australia, material on water conservation schemes, investigations and negotiations leading to Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme; items
2275, State Rivers and Water Supply Commission - Utilization of the waters of the Snowy River 13 June 1946.
2276, Letter from JK Jensen, Secretary of Dept. Supply and Development to LF Loder Director General of Works and Housing, 31 may 1948
2278, Minutes of Meeting of the Departmental Committee - Department of Works and Housing, 1 Dec 1948
2279, Cabinet Minutes, 22 Nov 1948
2279, Cabinet documents, 11 Nov 1948
2286, Riverina Advocate, 25 June 1965

National Archives of Australia, A2618, Report on Irrigation and Conservation 1897. Notes on early history of Snowy Scheme 1959. Notes on interviews etc. Vic SEC Report on Electricity System after 1940. Extracts from Newspapers - Royal Historical Society; items,
1995, 1897 Report on the Prospects of Irrigation and Water Conservation in NSW By Colonel FJ Home, 14 Oct 1897
1997, Sir William McKell and the Snowy Mountains Project, 29 July 1960
2002, News and information Bureau, Viscountess Broome Tours Australian Hydro-electric Scheme
2020, Australian Civil Engineering and Construction (Journal), 5 Oct 1964

National Archives of Australia, A2915/1, Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority - River gauging work - Work undertaken by Water Conservation and Irrigation Commission and other outside organisations;
Doc no. A56-21, Snowy-Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority - Memorandum (Comments on Mr. AF Reddoch's report on tests to show the effect of sharply fluctuating releases from the Hume Dam) Ref. No. 2nd July 1957

NSW Environment Protection Authority, 1997, New South Wales State of the Environment 1997, http://www/epa.nsw.gov.au/soe/97/

NSW Environment Protection Authority, 1997, Proposed Interim Environmental Objectives for NSW Waters: Murrumbidgee Catchment, EPA.

NSW Environment Protection Authority, 1997, Proposed Interim Environmental Objectives for NSW Waters: Snowy and Genoa, EPA.

Seddon, George, 1994, Searching for the Snowy : An Environmental History, St. Leonards, Allen & Unwin.

Shellshear, W M (ed.), 1962, The Snowy Scheme, Sydney, Horwitz Publications.

Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority, 1997, Annual Report 1996-1997, Cooma, SMHA.

Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority Webpage, http://www.snowyhydro.com.au

Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Power Act 1949.

Snowy Water Inquiry, 1998, Snowy Water Inquiry Issues Paper, Sydney, Snowy Water Inquiry.

Snowy Water Inquiry, 1998, A Guide to the Snowy Water Inquiry, Sydney, Snowy Water Inquiry.

Unger, Margaret, 1989, Voices from the Snowy, Kensington NSW, NSW University Press.

Wigmore, Lionel, 1968, Struggle for the Snowy: The Background of the Snowy Mountains Scheme, Melbourne, Oxford University Press.

Wood, Christopher, 1995, Environmental Impact Assessment - A Comparative Review, Halow, Longman.

Public Policy Program Discussion Papers

The Public Policy Program publishes occasional Discussion Papers by staff, students, visitors and others associated with the Program.

In November 1997 the program began making electronic copies of most recent Discussion Papers available to be down loaded from the program's website at http://www.anu.edu.au/pubpol/discussp.html (*marked below with an asterisk).

Enquiries should be directed to: The Editor, Discussion Papers, Public Policy Program, Australian National University, Canberra ACT 0200.

Papers published thus far are:

No. 1Larry Dwyer, Estimating the Lifesavings Benefits of Controls on Hazardous Wastes: Two Problems for the Policymaker. (July 1986)

No. 2Jane Marceau, Unequal Returns: Aspects of Opportunity in Australia. (October 1986)

No. 3Rolf Gerritsen, Making Policy Under "Uncertainty": The Labor Government's Reaction to the "Rural Crisis". (February 1987)

No. 4Eleanor Moses, The Oil Price Fall of 1986. (July 1987)

No. 5P J Forsyth, Productivity Measurments in the Public Sector. (August 1987)

No. 6Rolf Gerritsen, What Do Budget Outcomes Tell Us About the Australian States? (September 1987)

No. 7Rolf Gerritsen, Collective Action Problems in the Regulation of Australia's Common Property Renewable Resources. (October 1987)

No. 8Neil Marshall, Bureaucratic Politics and the Demise of the Commonwealth Tertiary Education Commission. (March 1988)

No. 9Charles Maskell, Does Medicare Matter? (May 1988)

No. 10Ray Jureidini, Public Policy and Marketplace Discrimination: Life Insurance and Superannuation. (June 1988)

No. 11Roger Wettenhall, Overlapping Public Sectors; Notes on Foreign Public Enterprise Activity in Australia. (July 1988)

No. 12Deborah Mitchell, Assessing the Adequacy of Social Security Payments. A Study Using U.K. Data. (August 1988)

No. 13Rolf Gerritsen, Informing Wilderness Policy: The Distributional Implications of Conservation. (January 1989)

No. 14 Christine Fletcher, Isolated Aborigines and Road Funding Policies in Western Australia. (March 1989)

No. 15Rolf Gerritsen, A Comment on the Appropriate Assignment of Policy Powers in the Australian Federation. (November 1989)

No. 16 Deborah Mitchell, Comparative Measures of Welfare Effort. (January 1990)

No. 17Ann Cronin, Trends and Tensions in Performance Evaluation in the Public Sector. (February 1990).

No. 18Deborah Mitchell, Comparing Income Transfer Systems: Is Australia the Poor Relation? (May 1990)

No. 19John Uhr, Ethics in Government: Public Service Issues. (June 1990).

No. 20Peter Cochrane & Rolf Gerritsen, The Public Policy Implications of Eucalypt Plantation Establishment: An Introductory Survey. (September 1990).

No. 21F G Castles & D Mitchell, Three Worlds of Welfare Capitalism or Four? (September 1990)

No. 22Francis Castles & Michael Flood, Divorce, the Law and Social Context: Families of Nations and the Legal Dissolution of Marriage. (January 1991)

No. 23Rolf Gerritsen, The Impossible Politics of Microeconomic Reform. (February 1991).

No. 24Duane Swank, Electoral and Partisan Influences on Australian Fiscal Policy From Menzies to Hawke. (May 1991)

No. 25Francis Castles, On Sickness Days and Social Policy. (July 1991)

No. 26Adrian Kenneth Noon, The Negligible Impact of Specific Purpose Payments and Australia's New Federalism. (August 1991)

No. 27Kerry Barwise & Francis G. Castles, The New Federalism, Fiscal Centralisation and Public Policy Outcomes. (September 1991)

No. 28Francis G. Castles & Jenny Stewart, Towards Industrially Sustainable Development? Industry Policy Under the Hawke Government. (October 1991)

No. 29Stephen Albin, Bureau-Shaping and Contracting Out: The Case of Australian Local Government. (January 1992)

No. 30Adrian Kenneth Noon, Determining the Fiscal Policy Time-Frame: the Dominance of Exogenous Circumstances. (February 1992)

No. 31Christopher John Eichbaum, Challenging the Intellectual Climate of the Times: Why the Reserve Bank of Australia is Too Independent? (January 1993)

No. 32Joan Corbett, Child Care Provision and Women's Labour Market Participation in Australia. (February 1993)

No. 33Francis G. Castles, Social Security in Southern Europe:
A Comparative Overview.
(March 1993)

No.34Francis G. Castles, On Religion and Public Policy: Does Catholicism Make a Difference? (April 1993)

No.35Rolf Gerritsen, "Authority, Persuasion and Exchange" (Revisited): The Public Policy of Internationalising the Australian Economy. (August 1993)

No.36Deborah Mitchell, Taxation and Income Redistribution: The "Tax Revolt" of the 1980s Revisited. (September 1993)

No.37Kim Terrell, Desperately Seeking Savings, Performance and Accountability. Policing Options for the Australian Capital Territory. (September 1993)

No.38Francis G. Castles, Is Expenditure Enough? On the Nature of the Dependent Variable in Comparative Public Policy Analysis. (February 1994)

No.39Francis G. Castles, The Wage Earners' Welfare State Revisited: Refurbishing the Established Model of Australian Social Protection, 1983-1993. (March 1994)

No.40Francis G. Castles, Testing the Limits of the Metaphore: Fordist and Post-Fordist Life Cycles in Australia and New Zealand. (May 1994)

No.41Louise Watson, Making the Grade: Benchmarking Performance in Australian Schooling. (August 1994)

No. 42Siwan Lovett, Evaluating Reform of the New Zealand Science, Research and Development System: New Deal or Dud Hand? (September 1994)

No. 43Choon Fah Low, An Evaluation of the Impact of the ANU's Graduate Program in Public Policy on its Student's and Graduate's Careers. (October 1994)

No. 44 Einar Overbye, Different Countries on a Similar Path: Comparing Pensions Politics in Scandinavia and Australia. (August 1995)

No.45 Grant Jones, Games Public Servants Play: The Management of Parliamentary Scrutiny Before Commonwealth Estimates
Committees.
(August 1995)

No.46 Stephen Horn, Disagreeing About Poverty: A Case Study in Derivation Dependence. (August 1995)

No 47 Douglas Hynd. Concerned with Outcomes or Obsessed with Progress? Characteristics of Senate Committee Reports During the Period 1990-1994. (September 1995)

No. 48 Pip Nicholson. Does the System of Appointing Australian High Court Judges Need Reform? (November 1995)

*No. 49Fred Argy,The Balance Between Equity and Efficiency in Australian Public Policy (November 1996)

*No. 50Deborah Mitchell, Family Policy in Australia: A review of recent
developments
. (March 1997)

*No. 51Richard Mulgan, Contracting Out and Accountability. (May 1997)

*No. 52Cynthia J. Kim, Will they still pay up-front? An analysis of the
HECS changes in 1997 (May 1997)

*No. 53Richard Mulgan, Restructuring -The New Zealand Experience from
an Australian Perspective (June 1997)

*No. 54P.N. Junankar, Was Working Nation Working? (July 1997)

*No. 55Deborah Mitchell, Reshaping Australian ?Social Policy: alternatives to the breadwinner welfare state (December 1997)

*No. 56Irene Krauss, Voluntary Redundancy from the Australian Public Service-its impact on people and families in the ACT (March 1998)

*No. 57Peter Taft, Does who wins matter more or less? An analysis of major party candidate views on some aspects of economic policy, 1987-1996 (July 1998).

No. 58Elise Sullivan, A Case Study In The Politics Of Retrenchment: The 1997 Coalition Residential Aged Care Structural Reform Package (November 1998).

No. 59Richard Mulgan, Have New Zealand's Political Experiments Increased Public Accountability* (January 1999).

No., 60Michael Bergmann, The Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme: How did it Manage Without an EIA? (February 1999)

* electronic copy available to be down loaded from our web site at

http://www.anu.edu.au/pubpol/discussp.html

Introduction
The Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme was approved by the Commonwealth in July of 1949, with the first power project brought into operation in February of 1955. In 1974 legislation was passed which could have conceivably altered one of the biggest engineering projects of its time, had it existed during the establishment of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme. The Commonwealth's Environmental Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act 1974 has at its core the system of environmental examination known as an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), which could have imposed greater environmental controls and scrutiny over all aspects of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme.
Before examining what impact such a system could have had on the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme, it is first essential to have a clear understanding of the Scheme itself, and in the case of this paper, to have a clear understanding of the ideas and concepts surrounding the inception and establishment of the Scheme. Then, it will be possible to examine what environmental considerations were taken into account during the formation of the project, as well as the more interesting question of why. An analysis of the environmental framework which surrounds Commonwealth projects today will give a clearer insight into any deficiencies which may have existed in the planning processes of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme, in addition to allowing an insight into the merits of today's methods of environmental scrutiny. This will be possible through an examination of the state of the environment surrounding the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme today. A realisation of not only the environmental consequences of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme's establishment without an Environmental Impact Assessment, but also of the merits of the Environmental Impact Assessment processes as applied to large scale national projects will be achieved.

Part One
Background to the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme.

The Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme (hereafter referred to as 'the Scheme') was and remains one of the largest engineering and construction projects in the world. The Scheme's two major functions are the generation of electricity and the provision of water for irrigation. This is set out under the heading of 'Purpose' in the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority's (hereafter refereed to as the Authority) latest Annual Report.
The fundamental purpose of the Snowy Mountains Scheme, under present legislation, is to collect, store and divert water for irrigation and electricity generation to meet customer requirements consistent with safety, asset security, economic and environmental requirements. 33

However, this was not always the listed intended purpose of the Scheme. The earliest suggestions for something resembling the Scheme are unclear, with many individuals making the claim that they thought of it, or something like it, first. This is perhaps a moot point, as the diversion of waterways through canals and aqueducts is a practice considerably older than European settlement of Australia. The first firm suggestion that is actually recorded is generally attributed to J S Gregory in 1913 at an Interstate Conference of Engineers, where he put forward a plan to direct the Snowy River to the Murray catchment for irrigation purposes, however at the time this was deemed not financially practicable. 34 Initially irrigation was the principal motive behind the diversion of water away from the coastal plains, where rainfall was considered ample, towards the drier inland plains. This had come about from an 1884 New South Wales Royal Commission on the Conservation of Water, whereby the Commission decided that one of the most attractive methods of supplying extra water resources to both the Murray and Murrumbidgee would be by storing up water in the mountainous country near their sources and allowing it to flow into the rivers when the supply in them is low. 35 In turn, the Commission gives credit for the concept to P F Adams, who was the Surveyor-General for the colony of NSW. The earliest suggestions for the use of hydro-electricity, although naturally it was not described in quite those terms, is generally credited to F B Gipps, nephew of Governor Gipps, and a well respected civil engineer, when in 1885 he wrote in a report on the upper Murray Valley;
In consideration that the value of every 100 feet of fall of the above stream [the Tooma River] would represent over 2,000 horsepower, in a commercial aspect such a scheme must be highly profitable while such application would in nowise prevent the water supply afterwards being equally available for irrigation. 36
Ronald Lewis, Director General of the then Commonwealth Works Department credits the initial plan for hydro-electricity to William Corin, from the NSW Department of Public Works, when he estimated in 1920, after considerable survey work, that the total electrical capacity of the Scheme would be 1,500,000 kilowatts, somewhat short of the final 5,128 gigawatt hours produced annually. Lewis also credits some of the earliest Commonwealth involvement in the Scheme's inception to a letter dated 20th of December 1942 from the Jindabyne Branch of the Agricultural Bureau of NSW to Prime Minister John Curtin, in which it was expressed that the Snowy River Hydro-electric Scheme stands alone as a beneficial national undertaking. 37 However, this would appear to ignore the meetings between Prime Minister Deakin and the Premier of NSW Charles Wade in 1909. Deakin and Wade met on the suggestion of David Miller, Secretary to the Department of Home Affairs, who had been closely following the works of Scrivener. Eventually, an inter-parliamentary agreement was reached, ratified by both Commonwealth and NSW parliaments, which stated that the Commonwealth had;
without payment therefor the right to use the waters of the Snowy River, and such other rivers as may be agreed upon or in default of agreement may be determined by arbitration, for the generation of electricity for the purposes of the [Federal Capital, later Australian Capital] Territory, and to construct the works necessary for that purpose, and to conduct the electricity so generated for the Territory. 38

This agreement proves great foresight, as will be seen later.

The Political Arena.
Perhaps more daunting than the engineering challenges were the political ones. Three states, in addition to the Commonwealth, would need to be involved in the Scheme's Development. The Snowy River flows through the states of New South Wales and Victoria, with the Murray and the Murrumbidgee bringing South Australia into the equation.
The Scheme commenced in 1949, with the tabling of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Power Act 1949 (hereafter referred to as 'the Act'), and construction commenced in the same year, with the official opening of building works by the Governor-General, the Rt Hon. W.J. McKell and the Prime Minister, the Rt Hon. J.B. Chifley. Chifley saw in the Australian Constitution a simple solution to the bickering that was occurring between the States. Each State wanted the greatest benefit to lie, understandably, within their own borders. NSW stated that as the construction and rainfall was occurring within their territory, they should get preferential treatment. Victoria was of the opinion that a Royal Commission should be established to examine the issue 39 , with South Australia of the opinion that navigation on the Murray River would be severely jeopardised 40 . The young Australian Capital Territory was also very interested in having ready electricity and water available. There was one ready made solution for the Prime Minister, to invoke the 1909 agreement made between the Commonwealth and NSW, however that would still leave Victoria and South Australia to deal with. However, lurking in the Constitution was a solution, and that was to make the Scheme a national defence issue. A conversation related by the Governor-General between himself and the Prime Minster summed up the attitude of the day;
McKell - The Snowy is a national work and as Prime Minister I think you should do it as a national work,
Chifley - Yes, but you know I haven't got the constitutional authority.
McKell - I know you haven't, but do it. Go ahead and do it. And let's see what will happen. Don't forget this Ben, under this Scheme we are going to build generating stations thousands of feet under the earth.
Chifley - What are we going to do that for?
McKell - So the bombs can't get at them. This is a defence job. This is for the defence of Australia. 41

Indeed, the Act was introduced into the Federal Parliament under the Commonwealth's defence power. It was fortunate that the validity of the Act was never challenged, as it would very probably have proved to be unconstitutional. It was not until 1959, ten years later, that the Act was underpinned by appropriate State legislation, with the Snowy Mountains Agreement becoming effective from the 2nd of January 1959. It was during this time of constitutional limbo that the Australian Workers Union secured more favourable working conditions under the threat of a constitutional challenge to the Authorities validity. 42


Construction of the Scheme.
The first phase of the Scheme was completed with the official opening of the Guthega power station on the 23rd of April, 1955. This section of the Scheme today only produces around 2% of the total capacity, however as a symbol Guthega was more than successful. Antipathy and in some cases hostility had been building up around what was becoming seen as an extremely expensive and controversial scheme, and it was determined that something, anything, needed to be completed and completed fast. Prime Minister Menzies, having been critical of the hasty implementation of the Scheme and in particular the use of the defence powers, was on hand to turn the switch to produce the Scheme's first power, stating This is a very dramatic and exciting occasion. 43 Progress proceeded at a steady pace, and by 1961 the contracts for the first diversion of the Snowy River to the Murray River were ready to be let out. The Tumut 1 power station was completed and visited by Queen Elizabeth II on the 10th of March, 1963. The next landmark event was the building of the Jindabyne Dam, and the subsequent flooding of what was soon to become Old Jindabyne. Construction was completed in less than 18 months by the American companies Utah Australia and Brown & Root Sudamericana. A decision was taken to pump water up from the Jindabyne Storage to the transmountain tunnel at Island Bend, which necessitated the installation of an emergency overflow mechanism (See Appendix 4), which will be discussed later in this paper. The Scheme was finally completed in 1974, and eventually comprised 7 power stations, 16 dams and 140 kilometres of tunnel. 1974 was the same year as the introduction of the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act, and as such, only one area of the Scheme has ever been examined under the regulations in the EPIP Act, EIS No. 147, the Snowy Mountains Precipitation Enhancement Experiment, in 1991.

Part Two
Environmental Considerations during Establishment.

Environmental considerations were not on the top of the list of items to be closely examined during the establishment of the Scheme. This report is not aiming to place a value judgement upon actions taken using the benefit of hindsight, merely to state factually what considerations were made towards the environment during the planning and development of the Snowy Mountains Scheme.

Water Conservation.
One of the earliest plans for water conservation regarding a project resembling the Scheme came about before the turn of the century. Colonel FJ Home, in his Report on the Prospects of Irrigation and Water Conservation in NSW 44 . While examining possible water sources for irrigation, Home briefly examined the prospect of diverting the Snowy River, however came to the conclusion that due to high costs and maintenance issues, The idea of utilising the water of the Snowy River outside its own valley must therefore be abandoned. The only concept of water conservation raised by Home was that of how best the water could be conserved until such time as the most could be drawn from it. Any notion of water conservation to maintain river quality, biodiversity or ecological impacts was foreign to the report.
Many of the environmental concerns raised during the planning process of the Scheme, around the mid to late 1940s, could be seen to contain ulterior motives. There were issues raised, especially regarding water conservation and usage, during many meetings of various committees set up to examine the feasibility of the Scheme. A particularly good example of this was the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission meeting held on the 13th of June, in 1946. The subject of the meeting was given as The Utilization of the Waters of the Snowy River, and as such, many of the minutes show that on the face of things, at least some environmental considerations were being studied. However, after closer examination it becomes clear that the environment was being used more as a means to an end. Victoria and South Australia in particular, did not want the bulk of water captured by the Scheme to benefit solely New South Wales, and so were pointing out that NSW would probably waste it anyway. A very large proportion of the flow of the Murrumbidgee River is now used by NSW for rice production which is an exceedingly wasteful way of using water resources. 45 That the environment was being used more as a bargaining chip, rather than a true matter of concern, becomes apparent when later in the meeting it is stated that, The needs of areas on which people are already established should be regarded as more urgent than the needs of areas which are not yet populated. 46 The land, or water for that matter, held little value if not being used for 'productive' purposes.
Similar discussions were being conducted around the same time, in the Federal Cabinet room. Environmental considerations were given a low priority, a much higher one being the means through which the Commonwealth could gain control of the Scheme. A sub-committee was established to examine the question of water conservation, however the definition of conservation had not changed greatly since the first investigation into the Snowy River, in 1897. Conservation was still seen as the best and most efficient way to get the water from the Snowy River to areas of irrigation. These committees then reported back to the Cabinet, with cursory findings.
A preview of the findings of the various sub-committees appointed to specialise on different aspects of the scheme, such as water conservation, electricity etc., and the additional information obtained from aerial and field surveys, test bores, and further gaugings, has enabled the original proposals for the diversion of the Snowy to the Murray and the Murrumbidgee to be refined and extended. 47

This extension and refinement of the proposal did little to change the underlying basis of the Scheme for anything resembling environmental grounds. The final legislative framework surrounding the Scheme, The Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Power Act 1949, did incorporate some environmental considerations, mostly concerning erosion and siltation. However, it will be shown that the reasons behind this were more than likely not based on any respect for the natural environment.

Environmental Considerations at the Scheme.
While politically little concern was given to the natural environment, either in the immediate surrounding area or downstream, those working directly on the Scheme did in fact take environmental considerations into account. The first major project on the Snowy-Tumut side of the development, the Tumut 1 project, elicited much examination by the engineers and scientists of the Scheme relating to issues such as water runoff, erosion and soil conservation. In a memorandum sent to the Chief Investigation Engineer from an employee of the Scheme, David Anderson, it becomes apparent that during the 1950s, more attention was being paid to potential problems such a large scheme could have on the environment.
"The acceleration of bank erosion due to fluctuating releases. While provision of a regulating pondage will keep this effect to a minimum on the Upper Murray it is likely to be a problem on the Lower Tumut, probably a more troublesome one than increased flooding. Some field surveys of this problem would be desirable before T.1 [Tumut One] comes into operation." 48

During construction of Tumut 2, further precautions were taken concerning soil conservation, however it will be shown later that there may have been other factors coming into play here.

Part Three
The Process Today.

Environmental impact assessments during the time of the setting up of the Snowy Mountains Scheme were almost completely State based, with each State having its own methods, guidelines and criteria. It was not until the late 1960s, early 1970s, that the States and Commonwealth governments decided that some form of unified stance was required. However, it was at The Australian Environmental Council, a meeting of the relevant environmental ministers from around Australia where the Commonwealth decided that uniformity in legislation was not possible, and set out to create Federal legislation governing Commonwealth activities. This was the beginning of the Environmental Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act 1974 (hereafter referred to as the EPIP Act).
The processes involved in getting such a scheme as the Snowy Mountains Scheme into operation today are many and varied. One of the steps would be the completion of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).
As stated earlier, the Commonwealth designated the Snowy Scheme as a national defence project, arguably so that the Federal Government could have a greater say over the implementation and operation of the Scheme. If such a tactic were tried today, many other considerations would need to be taken into account. The EPIP Act states that a Commonwealth EIA must be undertaken for, proposals carried out by Commonwealth departments and authorities or which have specific Commonwealth funding, such as defence projects 49 So today, by ensuring that the Commonwealth had a greater say in the running of the Scheme by invoking the defence powers, the Federal Government would have also ensured that a full Commonwealth EIA would be carried out. Seven criteria would need to be addressed under such an examination, taken from the Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council's Guidelines and Criteria for Determining the Need for and Level of Environment Impact Assessment in Australia, prepared in June 1996. It must be remembered here that these criteria are only set out as questions that should be posed, and as guidelines to evaluate individual proposals, and would not necessarily constitute the entirety of the EIA process.

The ANZECC Guidelines.
1. The character of the receiving environment
.
In the case of the Snowy Scheme, this would involve an examination of the possible impacts on surrounding National Parks, such as the Kosciuszko. The conditions of the area would need to be taken into account, such as the fragility of alpine flora. Offsite characteristics would also need to be taken into account, which would include any downstream effects - which would be a considerable undertaking. The receiving environment was closely examined during the planning of the Scheme. As part of geological surveys, the area immediately surrounding the Scheme was examined to ensure the viability of the Scheme, as well hydrological studies were carried out to measure stream and river flows. This was not, however, carried out with an eye for possible negative environmental impacts, but rather to ascertain the steps needed to instil the will of the engineers over the natural landscape. The senior surveyor in 1950 was credited as expressing that [o]nce the giddy depths of the grandest valleys were filled with water, the wilderness would be conquered, the mountains tamed and forever subservient to the needs of humanity. 50

2. The potential impacts of the proposal.
Here the construction and operation (as well as any decommissioning) of the Scheme would need to studied. This includes a number of factors.

  1. Physical factors
The significant land disturbance involved in the construction of the Scheme would need to be assessed, as would any subsequent possibility of erosion. The alteration of water courses also falls under this category, another major component of the Scheme, as well as any effect on water quality and quantity. The examination of the Scheme's effect on the Snowy River in particular would be a large part of this stage of the EIA. As stated previously, hydrological surveys were carried out, but not following EIA practices. As well, the Authority has stated that they have no direct control over the catchment area, and as such can only liaise and co-operate with the relevant State government agencies. 51

  1. Biological factors
The largest factor here would be the alteration to the hydrological regime of the surrounding areas, as well as downstream effects. The Scheme’s impact on biodiversity and ecological processes, as well as impacts that may effect those life support systems would be required to be considered. These were not adequately taken into consideration during the formation and planning stages of the Scheme. Biological factors were considered as a side issue during examinations of erosion and grazing, but were not examined in their own right.
  1. Land use
The Scheme’s most important feature here is the degree to which it limits the use of natural resources, notably water, for other uses. The Jindabyne Dam’s impact on the Snowy River, and subsequently on those land holders who rely on water throughout the high country area, is a major one, and would need to be thoroughly examined in any EIA. This was of major consideration during the planning of the Scheme, with many meetings and studies commissioned examining the share of water, electrical power and responsibility among the states involved, as well as with the Commonwealth.
  1. Resource use
This is similar to land use, except that it encompasses all resources which may be effected by the Scheme. The one resource which is traditionally associated with dispute, and over which wars have been fought throughout the ages, is water. Resource use, and in particular water, was also closely examined during the planning stages of the Snowy Scheme, with the first being the River Murray Commission, established in 1917, consisting of representatives from the Commonwealth, NSW, Victoria and South Australia. As this was, and remains, such a politically sensitive issue, it is perhaps not surprising that it is this area which had the closest scrutiny.
  1. Community
The relocation of the entire town of Adaminaby would be seen as the impact of the Scheme on a community taken to its extreme. However, smaller changes to communities downstream from the Scheme would also need to be considered, including changing economic stability, community concern and changing levels of community resources.
  1. Infrastructure
Any increase in the demand for services and infrastructure would be addressed here. This would include the massive influx of personnel which surrounded the Snowy Scheme, and the increasing demands this would place on the surrounding towns’ infrastructure.
  1. Heritage
Aboriginal habitation of the high country, especially during the Bogong moth season, is well known, and was understood during the planning stages of the Scheme. Any restriction the Scheme might place on the traditional practices of the indigenous peoples of the area would need to be considered. The impact of the Scheme would have to be taken into account on not only existing communities, but also on the possibility of damage to anthropological or archaeological sites or relics.
  1. Aesthetics
“The degradation of scenic amenity” is how the ANZECC defines this criterion, which can make it a somewhat problematic one. One person's spillover tower is another person's historic landmark. Suffice to say that questions of views and sight lines would come under this heading. Aesthetics is another area where the Authority was keen to be seen as doing its bit for the environment. The example used earlier, of the surge tank near the intake for the Jindabyne-Island Bend tunnel, is an apt one. In an attempt to as closely match the landscape as possible, the tank was sent to the Aesthetics Committee of the Authority, where it was decided to colour it very dark grey, and to give it a rough texture. A technique with admirable results.

3. Resilience of natural and human environments to cope with change.
It is here where the question of intergenerational equity needs to be addressed. Will the Snowy Scheme have an impact on the natural and human environments which is irreversible? Today’s Australian Intergovernmental Agreement on the Environment plays an important part in this stage of an EIA, and states that the present generation should ensure that the health, diversity and productivity of the environment is maintained or enhanced for the benefit of future generations. 52

4. Confidence of predicted impacts
This is where the level of knowledge regarding all aspects of the Scheme would need to be examined, including knowledge of the ecosystem, the design and project itself, level of change to be imposed on the environment, monitoring systems and community values.

5 & 6. Presence of planning, policy framework and other statutory decision making procedures.
Existing legislation, either zoning, statutory approval, standard codes and guidelines, as well as existing long term policy framework affecting the Scheme would all need to be taken into account under this heading. It could be said that the Federal Government had a novel interpretation of existing legislation, through the use and implementation of the Commonwealth's defence powers to ensure Commonwealth control over the Snowy Scheme, however it is more a study of existing environmental legislation, which largely did not exist on national scale during the establishment of the Snowy Scheme.

7. Degree of public interest
The possible level of public controversy over the Scheme would be examined under this heading, as well as the possible generation or maintenance of social inequity. While there was a good deal of public debate surrounding the economics of the Scheme, as well as the subsequent influx of migrant labour, there was very little public outcry regarding the environmental aspects of the Scheme. After the initial foundation of the Scheme, most of the public outcry during the 1960s was for greater use of the Scheme, as expressed in Riverina Advocate, 25th of June 1965, under the heading 'Draw Water From 'Bank Account''.
Before the Snowy Scheme there was no doubt that, in a drought such as this, water for irrigation would have been restricted, Mr. Grasby (MLA) went on. The whole purpose of the scheme, however, was to provide a drought bank account for critical years such as this. "If the water is not to be made available to maintain and if necessary to increase production in a drought, then the main value of the Snowy Scheme has been lost," he declared. This is the first opportunity the Snowy Scheme and the irrigation areas have had as a team to demonstrate their high value to the nation by keeping its city dwellers fed in a crisis such as this." 53

The Environmental Impact Statement.
After the level of assessment is determined, a number of different levels of assessments are possible; an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), a Public Environment Report (PER), an examination by a Commission of Inquiry, or an assessment following the publication and public review of either an EIS or PER. In the case of the Snowy Scheme, it is likely that a EIS would be called, as the issues are wide ranging, and the environmental impacts are easily deemed to be potentially significant, as has been seen by the response to ANZECC's guidelines. The proponent of the proposal would then have the responsibility of producing the EIS, in the case of the Snowy Scheme, this would be the responsibility of the Commonwealth ministry or agency deemed to be the lead agency, in consultation with Environment Australia. The required contents of such a statement are to;
(a)state the objectives of the proposed action;
(b)analyse the need for the proposed action;
(c)indicate the consequences of not taking the proposed action;
(d)contain a description of the proposed action;
(e)include information and technical data adequate to permit a careful assessment of the impact on the environment of the proposed action.,
(f)examine any feasible and prudent alternative to the proposed action;
(g)describe the environment that is likely to be affected by the proposed action and by any feasible and prudent alternative to the proposed action;

  1. assess the potential impact on the environment of the proposed action and of any feasible and prudent alternative to the proposed action, including, in particular, the primary, secondary, short-term, long-term, adverse and beneficial effects on the environment of the proposed action and of any feasible and prudent alternative to the proposed action;
  2. outline the reasons for the choice of the proposed action;
  3. describe, and assess the effectiveness of, any safeguards or standards for the protection of the environment intended to be adopted or applied in respect of the proposed action, including the means of implementing, and the monitoring arrangements to be adopted in respect of, such safeguards or standards; and
(k) cite any sources of information relied upon in, and outline any consultations during, the preparation of the environmental impact statement. 54

The draft EIS is then made available for public comment, after which the final report if drafted, which is then assessed by Environment Australia. After the assessment, the action Minister, that is the Minister responsible for the Commonwealth action, makes the final decision as to whether the project goes ahead, proceeds subject to conditions, or is rejected. At any time before or during the process, the Minister responsible for administering the Act may exempt the proposal from undergoing an EIA, under a number of grounds. These are that it may be prejudicial to national security, to the interests of Australia, adversely affect commercial or other confidences, or are otherwise contrary to the public interest. The Minister is not under obligation to publish exemptions if s/he believes that it would be contrary to the public interest to do so. Judging by the Commonwealth Government's willingness to introduce the Snowy Scheme under the defence powers, it might have been the case that had such environmental legislation existed during the implementation of the Scheme, it could have been by-passed in the interests of the nation.

Possible Outcomes
Were such a scheme, with the scale and scope of the Snowy Scheme, proposed under a modern EIA framework, the results could conceivably go two ways. The first scenario is that the Snowy Scheme could be seen as so big and so important to the nation that it would be forced through with only a cursory examination. As stated previously, provisions exist within the legislation for any project where an EIA is judged to be contrary to the public interest to be exempted. This would probably have been the case had today's legislation existed during the 1940s/50s, as can be seen by the government of the day's eagerness in implementing the Scheme under the Commonwealth's defence power. Another way of looking at it is to ask what would have been the case had the 1940s/50s scheme been introduced during the 1980s or 90s. With the growing influence and acceptance of environmental politics and awareness, it is unlikely, though not outside the realms of possibility, that any government would effectively ignore environmental safeguards and undertake such a project without at least a pretence of undertaking an environmental impact assessment.
The second scenario is that the Snowy Scheme is so big, and would impact upon the environment in so many different and possibly unpredictable ways, that under a modern EIA framework it would never get off the ground. The processes involved in assessing the potential impacts of the proposal could conceivably take so long that it might be deemed as unfeasible. Of course, these two scenarios are the extremes, and the more likely outcome would be somewhere in between - a compromise between expedience in implementing the project, and satisfying modern demands for a thorough investigation of the potential environmental impacts.

Part Four
The State of the Environment.

Erosion.
Throughout the planning and construction of the Snowy Scheme erosion was seen as the most important aspect of the environment in terms of conservation. Erosion was the only environmental concern that was raised independently throughout the planning process, with other concerns such as water use reserved for inter-state rivalry. Erosion due to human intervention was already a major problem in the Snowy Mountains. During the second half of the nineteenth century, the alpine highlands were being used more and more as grazing lands and as stock routes. By 1851 the district of Cooma consisted of 97,764 head of cattle, and 32,783 sheep. 55 These figures must be taken with a grain of salt, as prior to 1889 the Snowy Mountains were open to all, with summer grazing particularly popular with those in surrounding areas during times of drought, where the lush hills and valleys often remained green and fertile. As such, over-grazing was common. To compound the problems, the practice of burning off dry grass to encourage green shoots to appear was also widely undertaken. The problems with grazing were not mitigated with the introduction of pastoral leases, as Sir William McKell discovered during a visit to the area in 1941.
We camped over the area and I was appalled. You see the whole area - about one million and a quarter acres - was subject to leases, grazing leases. The large graziers had very big areas down there and they could put as much stock as they liked on them. The whole area was being completely eroded. I saw all that sphagnum moss and the snowgrass and it was all getting eaten out. Well, that was the lifeblood of the Snowy because that moss and grass holds the water and lets it seep out slowly. 56

It was not for purely altruistic reasons that the Snowy Authority set out to correct years of neglect and erosion, which is what they did. Large scale plantings of native grasses, regeneration of native plants and providing compensation to those with grazing leases to keep their stock below 4500 feet as well as buying out grazing leases all occurred. If erosion were to continue unchecked at the rate it had been, in very little time siltation of the rivers, creeks and waterways which fed the Scheme would occur, as well as siltation of the storage areas, and would greatly degrade the efficiency, and possibly effect the entire viability of the Scheme. For this reason, erosion is seen as being under control in regards to the Scheme's operation, with erosion protection works constantly being carried out, including bank stabilisation and river improvement projects. 57

Water.
It is the Snowy Scheme’s impact on river flows that has raised the most environmental concerns. The Snowy River has received particular public attention recently, however it is also the Eucumbene, Murrumbidgee, Tooma, Tumut, Swampy Plain, Geehi and Murray Rivers that are affected by the Scheme. These are currently the subject of an intergovernmental inquiry, the Snowy Water Inquiry, by the New South Wales and Victorian governments 58 , however it is commonly accepted that it is the Snowy River which suffers most heavily, with dramatic changes having occurred since the inception of the Scheme. The aspects of the Scheme which have the biggest impact on the Snowy River are the Eucumbene and Jindabyne Dams, and the Guthega and Island Bend Pondages. The releases from these dams were agreed upon in 1960 by the then NSW Water Conservation and Irrigation Commission, and have not been changed subsequently. Only riparian users were considered, with no account taken of amount of water flow required to maintain ecosystems. The minimum release requirement is for a flow of 24.5 ML/day downstream at Dalgety 59 , with the average annual flow in the Snowy River below Jindabyne being about 1% of what the natural flow was before the construction of the dams and pondages. Together with tributary inflows, the Snowy River has flows of approximately half of levels before the Scheme. 60 Perhaps more important than annual flow rates is the Scheme's impact on seasonal flows. Due to the relatively steady flow rates released by the Scheme, seasonal flooding, which was a common feature especially during the spring months with the melting of the winter snows, has all but been eliminated. There has been a reduction of 40-80% in typical flushing flows in each month at Jarrahmond, combined periods of low flow (flow remaining below 225 ML/day for 10+ days) having increased from once every 20 years to once every 1.4 years. 61 This has had a marked impact on the makeup of the Snowy River, leaving a flat, homogenous river bed, where once there existed an assorted pattern of deep pools and fast flowing areas. This has a significant negative effect on biodiversity, with large changes in habitat conditions. Salinity has also increased at the mouth of the river, as well as around the outflow estuary at Marlo, with the Snowy River Interstate Catchment Co-ordination Committee reporting that excess salinity now effects approximately 550ha of agricultural land around the mouth of the Snowy River, with the saline wedge having progressed several kilometres upstream.

Biology.
Biological indicators surrounding the Scheme are many and varied. In the waterways these consist of stream bank vegetation, water plants, water animals including both fish and macroinvertebrates and bacteria. Biological factors relating to the Snowy Scheme are associated with two major areas; the impact the Scheme has on river flows and subsequently on biodiversity in waterways, and the direct impact by the Scheme itself on the surrounding ecology. Populations of species, as well as diversity of species, is lower in the waters downstream from the dams since the establishment of the Scheme. Due to the changes in flow rates, the numbers of macroinvertebrates and insects has declined dramatically, as well as the numbers of species being less diverse. 62 This in turn can have significant effects further up the food chain, with those animals that rely on high levels of macroinvertebrates suffering. As well, the Scheme can affect these species directly, with the Snowy River Interstate Catchment Coordination Committee reporting that reduced frequency of flushing flows has increased sediment in the lower Snowy River and reduced the number and depth of water holes thought to be critical to breeding for Australian bass, though there is conflicting evidence about sedimentation characteristics since the construction of the scheme.
The Authority has been more careful in respect to somewhat larger and more publicly visible fauna in the immediate surrounds of the Scheme. Recently, special tunnels have been constructed under roadways in an attempt to grant the Pygmy Possum greater mobility and reduce the effects of habitat fragmentation. 63 This project, a joint effort with the National Parks and Wildlife Service, is an inexpensive and reasonably effective method of improving the prospects of the Pygmy Possum, and has received considerable public exposure. The Authority was also involved in the surveying of the habitat of the Spotted Tree Frog, through the use of the Authorities helicopter, in order to start work on estimations for the species potential for future recovery. 64

Part Five - Conclusion

The Snowy Scheme has often been seen as a prime example of a ‘nation-building’ project. A grand scheme, demonstrating the foresight of the planners, where the next generation will be enjoying the benefits for years to come. In the case of the natural environment, this was not exactly the case. The planning, inception, establishment, construction and operation of the Scheme had little in the way of what we would call today standard environmental safeguards. There were committees formed to examine water conservation, but merely as the most efficient way of providing the resource to those who would then produce something of value with it. There was much discussion regarding erosion, and that was reflected in the Snowy Act of 1949 itself. However, this was for the purpose of ensuring the long term viability of the Scheme, not for any feelings or beliefs that the environment should be protected for reasons outside productivity. The character of the receiving environment was studied and examined, geological and hydrological surveys being undertaken, but these were not done as part of a systematic analysis of any environmental concerns. Some of the potential impacts of the Scheme were taken into account, but only as part of examining feedback loops, to see how the environment would in turn effect the efficiency of the Scheme.
Some aspects of the environment seemed to have managed quite well. Not surprisingly, these are the areas which if left unattended could affect the viability of the Scheme. Erosion was always an important issue, with siltation being a possible problem to the Scheme right form the outset, and the results reflect this, with very little environmental concerns due to erosion from the Scheme emerging. Those areas which have been seen to have suffered, namely water flows in the Snowy River and the resulting loss in biodiversity and salination, did not directly feedback into the Scheme itself, and as such were of little concern to the planners during the establishment of the Scheme. The whole concept of the inter-valley transfer of water was to add more to the Murray and Murrimbidgee, by removing it from the Snowy. There was always going to be obvious winners and losers.
In some areas it is clear that an EIA would have proved valuable to the planners of the Scheme, whereas in others the receiving environment has managed quite well without detailed examination prior to implementation. Combined with this are the economic and social benefits the Scheme has conferred to those on the receiving end of the inter-valley transfer of water, as well as the production of relatively inexpensive and, compared with other forms of production, less polluting electricity.

How did the Snowy Scheme manage without an EIA? By focusing on only those areas of the environment which could directly affect the viability of the Scheme, and effectively ignoring those that did not. This clearly shows the benefits and importance of the modern EIA framework, where even those aspects of a project which do not appear to directly influence the environment are taken into account during the establishment phase of the undertaking.

Bibliography

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Collis, Brad, 1990, Snowy: The Making of Modern Australia, Sydney, Hodder & Stoughton.

Diesendorf, W., (ed.), 1961, The Snowy Mountains Scheme : Phase 1 - The Upper Tumut Projects, Sydney, Horwitz Publications.

Diesendorf, Mark, & Hamilton, Clive (eds.), 1997, Human Ecology, Human Economy, St. Leonards, Allen & Unwin.

Environment Australia, 1997, Commonwealth Environmental Impact Assessment : An outline of the Commonwealth Environment Impact Assessment process., Canberra, Environment Australia.

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2275, State Rivers and Water Supply Commission - Utilization of the waters of the Snowy River 13 June 1946.
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1 Snowy Mountains Authority, 1997, ii.

2 Lewis, 1964, 3.

3 Wigmore, 1968, p.57.

4 Wigmore1968, p.66.

5 Lewis, 1964, p.4.

6 Wigmore, 1968, pp.84-85.

7 Lewis, 1964, p.8.

8 Wigmore, 1968, p.71.

9 Unger, 1989, 16.

10 Collis, 1990, p.38.

11 Sun Herald, 14 April 1955.

12 Australian Archives, Doc. No. 1995, 14 October 1897.

13 Australian Archives, Doc. No. 2275, 13 June 1946.

14 Australian Archives, Doc. No. 2275, 13 June 1946.

15 Australian Archives, Cabinet documents, Doc. No. 2279, 11 Nov 1948.

16 Australian Archives, Doc no. A56-21, Snowy Mountains Authority Memo Ref. No. 2nd July 1957.

17 Australian EIA Network, 9/98.

18 Quoted in Collis, 1990, p.20.

19 SMHA, 1962, p.9.

20 Quoted in Diesendorf & Hamilton, 1997, p.76.

21 Australian Archives, Doc No. 2286, 25 June 1965.

22 Australian EIA Network, 9/98.

23 Wigmore, 1968, p.31.

24 Quoted in Unger, 1989, pp.179-180.

25 SMHA, Annual Report, pp.39-40.

26 The Snowy River Inquiry handed down its final report on the 23rd of October 1998, recommending that, in an attempt to restore the environmental condition of the Snowy River, 15% of the original flow of the river should be restored.

27 EPA(a), 1995.

28 Snowy Water Inquiry, April 1998, p.13.

29 EPA(a), 1995.

30 Snowy Water Inquiry, April 1998, p.12.

31 SMHA Media Release, 3 April 1997.

32 SMHA, Website, 8/98.

33 Snowy Mountains Authority, 1997, ii.

34 Lewis, 1964, 3.

35 Wigmore, 1968, p.57.

36 Wigmore1968, p.66.

37 Lewis, 1964, p.4.

38 Wigmore, 1968, pp.84-85.

39 Lewis, 1964, p.8.

40 Wigmore, 1968, p.71.

41 Unger, 1989, 16.

42 Collis, 1990, p.38.

43 Sun Herald, 14 April 1955.

44 Australian Archives, Doc. No. 1995, 14 October 1897.

45 Australian Archives, Doc. No. 2275, 13 June 1946.

46 Australian Archives, Doc. No. 2275, 13 June 1946.

47 Australian Archives, Cabinet documents, Doc. No. 2279, 11 Nov 1948.

48 Australian Archives, Doc no. A56-21, Snowy Mountains Authority Memo Ref. No. 2nd July 1957.

49 Australian EIA Network, 9/98.

50 Quoted in Collis, 1990, p.20.

51 SMHA, 1962, p.9.

52 Quoted in Diesendorf & Hamilton, 1997, p.76.

53 Australian Archives, Doc No. 2286, 25 June 1965.

54 Australian EIA Network, 9/98.

55 Wigmore, 1968, p.31.

56 Quoted in Unger, 1989, pp.179-180.

57 SMHA, Annual Report, pp.39-40.

58 The Snowy River Inquiry handed down its final report on the 23rd of October 1998, recommending that, in an attempt to restore the environmental condition of the Snowy River, 15% of the original flow of the river should be restored.

59 EPA(a), 1995.

60 Snowy Water Inquiry, April 1998, p.13.

61 EPA(a), 1995.

62 Snowy Water Inquiry, April 1998, p.12.

63 SMHA Media Release, 3 April 1997.

64 SMHA, Website, 8/98.