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Mountain Journal

Environment, news, culture from the Australian Alps

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Snowy Mountains

Snowy 2.0 hydro project to avoid environmental scrutiny?

It is being reported that the Snowy 2.0 Hydro project has been given ‘critical’ status for NSW, fast-tracking its development, amid concerns it may skirt environmental obligations.

The ‘critical’ status means the project no longer has to go through as rigorous a planning process and will only require the sign-off of the NSW Minister for Planning, Anthony Roberts. However, there will still be some environmental and community impact investigations.

Continue reading “Snowy 2.0 hydro project to avoid environmental scrutiny?”

Summer events in the Australian Alps

Mountain Journal often advertises high energy events like trail running, road riding, cross country races, etc. But summer is also a good time to relax, take it easy, and chill out with friends. Here are some listings for festivals, low key nature events, and social gatherings that are happening in the Alps over summer 2017/18.

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Australian Alpine Ascent, March 2018

Now that we’re well and truly into trail running season I expect that lots of people who love running events are in training. It’s always good to have something to work towards. If you’ve been a bit slow off the mark, the Australian Alpine Ascent will be held in the Snowy Mountains on March 10.

Plenty of time to get in shape!

Full details below.

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What are the environmental costs of Snowy Hydro 2.0?

What are the environmental costs of Snowy Hydro 2.0?

Australia is still (sadly) stuck in a culture war over whether climate change is real. While the majority of Australians accept the fact, a significant number of political leaders are using their position to block meaningful action. This has immobilised any forward movement on developing a coherent national energy policy. If anything, the standoff between the conservatives and climate deniers on the one hand, who support more coal and gas, invoking the catch cry of energy security and reliability of supply, and those who heed climate science and understand the need to transition rapidly to renewable energy, is getting worse.

Thankfully technology is intervening to change the dynamics of the argument. The rapid development of storage technology is clearly a game changer when it comes to considering what is possible in terms of powering our nation. Domestic and commercial scale batteries and electric cars are two obvious points where the debate is changing. So is the prospect of pumped storage hydroelectricity, where a two way system is developed so water can be run through a hydro system to produce electricity, and retained below the point of generation, then pumped back up into the storage point (usually a dam) when electricity is very cheap.

As the federal government grapples with pumped hydro storage options it is becoming ever clearer that there are many places where such schemes could be established (It is estimated that there are more than 22,000 suitable locations right around Australia). But there are also plans to re-purpose the Snowy Mountains Hydro Scheme to be able to re-use water by creating a second pipeline system to pump water back into the storages. This is being referred to as Snowy Hydro 2.0.

On face value this seems to be a sensible option for getting more clean energy production out of the existing infrastructure. However there are obvious and very considerable environmental issues that need to be considered before the upgrade proceeds. The initial feasibility study (which is still underway) has already identified the major question of what to do with the spoil from the massive drilling operation that would be required to make the project viable. It will need 27 kilometres of tunnels, which may be up to 12.5 metes wide, and from the report below, it is clear that, at this point, the authorities have no idea where they would dump all the rock waste that would come from drilling the tunnels. It should go without saying that the Snowy scheme is within the Snowy Mountains National Park and so the waste will need to be taken outside the park.

Continue reading “What are the environmental costs of Snowy Hydro 2.0?”

Spring splitboarding mission to the western faces

This great story about a late season trip to the western slopes of the Snowy Mountains comes from Main Range Backcountry.

Antony von Chrismar goes on a Spring splitboarding mission to the western faces after getting back from a European summer.

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Fears over Snowy River’s health without independent monitor

The Snowy Mountains scheme, built between 1949 and 1974, diverts the water of the Snowy River and some of its tributaries, much of which originally flowed southeast onto the river flats of East Gippsland, inland to the Murray and Murrumbidgee Rivers irrigation areas. This has caused the health of the Snowy to decline dramatically.

Following long running campaigns, the Snowy Water Inquiry was established in January 1998. The Inquiry recommended an increase to 15% of natural flows. In 2000, Victoria and NSW agreed to a long-term target of 28%, requiring A$375 million of investment to offset losses to inland irrigators. It has been hoped that this increase in flow will help the health of the river system improve.

However there have been ongoing fears that the flows are not being properly managed in a way that will maximise environmental benefits. In 2013, the NSW Government abolished the Snowy’s scientific monitor and a replacement body, announced in 2014, has not yet been established. As pointed out recently by ecologists, without an independent monitor, there is a risk that the health of the river will go backwards.

Continue reading “Fears over Snowy River’s health without independent monitor”

World Telemark Day 2017 – Snowy Mountains event

World telemark day is celebrated in both the northern and southern hemispheres

In NSW World Telemark Day will be celebrated on Saturday 9 September.

It will be held at Perisher. Meet at 8am at Perisher skitube.

The Plan: there will be two groups; 1 will go backcountry (ideal for those who don’t want to lash out on a lift ticket for the day) and 1 will take to the lifts to explore the great terrain that Perisher has to offer!

Both are great options, especially with the awesome snow that’s out there at the moment!!

There will be demo gear available through the Wilderness Sports Perisher store, with both NTN and 75mm gear to try!

Hire is also available through the store in Jindabyne on Friday night and Saturday Morning, as well as in our Perisher shop on Saturday morning. You can bring book through the WS website https://www.wildernesssports.com.au/pages/telemark-hire.

Come join us and have an awesome day with fellow freeheelers!

Please email or PM us to let us know whether you are interested in resort or backcountry to bruce@wildernesssports.com.au

 

For full details on world tele day, please check here.

 

What is happening with the lease at Perisher?

In Victoria, ski resorts operate on designated permanent Crown land reserves, each managed by a Resort Management Board appointed by, and responsible to, the Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Water. The Boards are responsible for the development, promotion, management and use of each Alpine Resort. In contrast, the resorts in NSW exist within the Kosciuszko National Park and operate through negotiating a lease with the government through the Parks Service (NPWS). They are then required to develop an environmental management system (EMS), which seeks to regulate and minimise the impacts of the operation on the natural environment.

As has been reported widely in regional media, it has been recently announced that the Parks Service has not granted any company a new head lease arrangement for Perisher Range in their recent Governance Review. Having a head lease allows the holder of the lease to then sublet to other businesses such as venues, accommodation, family lodges, etc.

This has caused a lot of anxiety among businesses, both in the park and adjacent communities who are reliant on the smooth functioning of the industry. While it is obviously essential that the conditions of the lease ensures minimal impacts on the surrounding environment, the uncertainty in terms of the future of Perisher and Charlotte Pass is very stressful for people whose livelihoods depend on these operations. One local owner said “NPWS made the announcement publicly before the stakeholders knew that it was off the table ….this means that clubs are unable to accept bookings for the following year or budget, invest or plan due to lack of vision first & foremost.”

The following article written by Steve Cuff comes from the Snowy Mountains Magazine, and provides a comprehensive overview of what the delay means for businesses (and hence the ski industry in general).

Continue reading “What is happening with the lease at Perisher?”

World telemark day, September 2017

Saturday September 2, 2017.

This is the annual day for telemark skiers (and any other backcountry inclined skiers and riders) to get together, share some turns, make new friends, and generally enjoy getting out in the mountains.

WTD was initiated by Telemark magazine, with events both in the northern and southern hemispheres.

At this point there are plans for gatherings at MT HOTHAM and the SNOWY MOUNTAINS. Any tele skiers are encouraged to come along to the organised events or plan their own on their local hill.

Full details are available here.

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