Last Sunday was the second anniversary of the announcement that a dam was proposed on the Mary River, at Traveston Crossing, not far from where I've been staying the past two weeks.
The area is some of the most fertile farmland left in Australia, known as the food basket of Brisbane. The Mary River itself is home to the rare and endangered species such as the lungfish (a dinosaur contemporary), and the unique Mary River Turtle. Mary River flows out to Hervey Bay and the famous sanctuary of Fraser Island, home to rare dugongs as well as many other special species.
The creek on Helga and Victor Hill's farm where I've been staying will run much higher if the dam is built, and the road I've been walking along will be partially submerged. They, and many of their neighbours are outraged by the dam proposal and have devoted much of the past two years to fighting against it. One of Victor's contributions to the campaign (as well as narrating bus tours of the threatened area, ringing talk back radio and prolific letter writing) is the painting of signs. This is about a third of the signs lining the road frontage of their farm.
Victor also made this fabulous creation to demonstrate the proposed water level above currently dry land. It usually lives outside the farm gate with all the signs, but for last Sunday's flotilla, it was moved down to the Mary River.
As well as being the anniversary of the dam announcement, last Sunday was also a chance for dam opponents to join Steve Posselt for a stretch of his epic journey kayaking from Brisbane and along the Mary River. Steve Posselt is a water engineer making this cross country trip to draw attention to the significant flaws in the dam proposal and the terrible consequences if it goes ahead. As the Mary does not actually connect up to Brisbane he hauled his kayak overland across a very big hill. Luckily he has a special wheelie kayak: the wheels flip up for when he is on the water and when the water doesn't go where he wants the wheels flip down and he dons a harnass to pull it along.
Over a hundred people came along last Sunday to paddle down the river with Steve, enjoy the beautiful environment which will be destroyed by the dam and protest for the TV cameras. It was a misty morning and I helped out at the gateway to the launch site, making sure that every paddler signed the registration form/disclaimer before they got on the water. Unfortunately I didn't get to go for a paddle, but I watched from the bank as the colourful flotilla set off in perfect weather.
The dam wall is proposed for Traveston Crossing, currently a bridge where the flotilla was to finish. Upstream the Mary runs through flat farmland which would make for a wide shallow dam, perfect for evaporating (rather than storing) water in this hot dry climate. The rainfall in this area is relatively low, compared with the coastal end of the River, suggesting that the dam is unlikely to be unable to collect enough water to try and store anyway, and certainly not enough water to enable the proposed fish lifts to function (apparently the dam proposal suggests that itinerant workers can be hired to manually catch and lift endangered fish over the dam wall so they can get to and from their spawning grounds).