Arnold River hydro plan released for public discussion
22 November 2006
By SANDRA COX in GREYMOUTH
A controversial proposal for a $185 million hydro-power scheme on the West Coast's Arnold River has been released for public comment.
The TrustPower scheme has been debated in varying forms for years, with opponents questioning its impact on the river. This week, the West Coast Regional District Council notified the application by TrustPower to build, operate and maintain a scheme in the middle reaches of the Arnold River Valley.
The scheme would produce 220GWh (gigawatt hours) of power a year.
Under the proposal, water will be drawn from the Arnold River, east of Greymouth, at the site of an existing dam, and conveyed to a storage pond and power station before being discharged back to the river via a regulation pond. TrustPower operates several other small hydro schemes on the West Coast, including the Arnold Dam which will be decommissioned when the new scheme is complete.
In 2000, TrustPower proposed a 70MW scheme with significant storage which involved a land swap with the Department of Conservation (DOC). The department rejected the exchange because it involved flooding part of an ecological area.
"This (new proposal) is a rebirth of that scheme without any DOC land involvement whatsoever," TrustPower community relations manager Graeme Purches said.
Kayakers had opposed the scheme on the grounds it would reduce the flow of one of the sport's best rivers in the South Island.
Purches said TrustPower would include a world-class kayak course at the lower end of the scheme as part of its plans.
"We've put it in as a tentative proposal but it's not confirmed at this stage because if it doesn't stack up financially or if we can't get the requisite support then it simply won't go ahead," Purches said.
Greymouth kayaker Andy England said kayakers would welcome the chance to look at the proposal.
"None of us wants to impede progress but most kayakers believe there could be other sources identified and it's always a shame to lose a natural free-flowing river," he said.
Submissions on the application close in January