Mount Emerald Wind Farm
As part of ensuring safety of workers and the community, and protecting the cultural heritage and natural values of the site, prior to disturbance on any site, a sequence of measures will occur:
- UXO survey
- Cultural Heritage Survey
- Fauna and Flora Survey and translocation
UXO (Unexploded Ordnance Surveys)
It could comprise the remains of Small Arms Ammunition; High Explosive Grenades; High Explosive Grenade; 2 – 4.2 inch Mortars all types and 25lb Projectiles all natures.
Milsearch, a nationally recognised company, has been contracted, and over the past 6 months have assessed the site, to identify and remove dangerous materials.
They have surveyed all the potential roads, tower sites and the sub-station and laydown compound to ensure they are safe areas to work in or traverse.
In 2016-early 2017, Unexploded Ordnance clearances were conducted across the MEWF site resulting in the destruction of 4 unexploded items and the recovery of around 180 items of Explosive Ordnance Waste (waste left over once an item has exploded).
All of these have been detonated by the Dept of Defence according to agreed protocols.
All staff and contractors working on the site will receive an induction which informs them of the UXO risk, what to look for (possible UXO items are flagged PINK) , and what to do if they find something. The response is the 3R’s: RECOGNISE, RETREAT, REPORT! Do not touch!
It should be noted, except when the item has been deliberately interfered with, there have been no known incidents in Australia in which unexploded ordnance has injured a member of the public.
UXO experts will move ahead of all construction work teams to double-check each site for previously unfound material, and appropriately dispose of it, prior to work occurring.
EOW (Explosive Ordnance Waste) found – lots of old mortar tails and other scraps of metal fragments.
UXO Found – what they look like ‘in situ’.
Cultural Heritage surveys – MbarBarrum people
The MBarBarrum people are the traditional owners of the land upon which the Wind Farm will be built. As part of the approval and construction process, the MBarBarrum people have been consulted to identify areas and finds of significance on the site.
A Cultural Heritage Management Plan was developed as part of the EIS process, to describe what might be found on site, and how to protect it. Since December 2016, RAC has been working with the MBarBarrum people, and their consultant advisors, across the site to flag, identify and either remove or protect areas and finds that might be impacted by the construction of the roads, compounds and tower footprints. A team comprising MBarBarrum Elders and young people have been trained in identifying and protecting their cultural heritage elements on site. They have also undertaken first aid, 4 Wheel-drive and Environmental Awareness training as part of their preparation for ongoing work at the site.
In the ‘first pass detailed assessment’ conducted during January-February 2017, a number of items have been found. Areas close to creek lines have now been removed from the construction footprint of the Powerlink Sub-Station to protect possible camp and spear making sites. All material found has been GPS located (flagged WHITE), bagged and identified, and removed for cataloguing. An assessment will be made, in consultation with the MbarBarrum Elders on whether the artefacts will be returned to the site after construction has been completed, or will be catalogued and archived for future research and to protect them into perpetuity.
As part of the construction program, prior to any disturbance occurring, and after the UXO crew, the Cultural Heritage Team will move ahead of, and with, the contractors to identify any new material or sites of cultural heritage significance. A decision will be made at the time to either remove or isolate that item or site from works. If new material is exposed by plant whilst defining road works, that will also be assessed by the Cultural Heritage Team, and protected.
Fauna Surveys/Vegetation protection or translocation
Three days prior to the construction team going through a site, the Fauna and Flora Assessment team will implement the Fauna/Flora protection strategy.
Focus will be on the Northern Quoll because it is Endangered under EPBC Act and Nature Conservation Act.
It is found in rock piles, tree hollows in rocky woodlands across the site.
It is a small mammal (400-800g avg). Males only live 1 year. There are only 53 predicted across the MEWF plateau.
There are strict conditions to protect the species:
- Clearing/work schedule set.
- 3 nights before: Traps set along the transect. Traps flagged YELLOW.
- Each night, traps are baited.
- The following morning, traps are checked for quolls.
- Quolls are then collared with a radiotracking device and released a minimum of 1000m from the clearance area (it must be on the site).
- The clearance footprint will be searched methodically for denning individuals each morning prior to starting construction activities.
- Search techniques may include manual or visual inspection, radio-tracking and when young are in dens, use of sniffer dogs. If any actively occupied dens are located within the construction area, then all bulk earthworks will be halted until such time as the individual shifts den sites.
Timing of works has been planned to try to ensure most road construction and disturbance occurs before the breeding season on August-September.
A small number of significant flora species found on the MEWF project site are very rare or endangered and some are not found elsewhere.
These species are likely to need to be translocated, or buffered from the clearing:
- Acacia purpureopetala (critically endangered)
- Pronstenthera clotteniana (critically endangered)
- Melaleuca uxorum (endangered)
- Grevillea glossedenia (vulnerable)
- Homoranthus porteri (vulnerable)
- Plectranthus amoenus (vulnerable)
These species will be flagged by a botanist and will be in No Go zones.
All but one of these species occur on ridgelines to the south of the Powerlink Transmission line so this is where its most important to focus efforts.
Translocation is the deliberate removal of a living plant or reproductive material such as root stock or even parts of the soil. Relocation to a suitable site where it is protected until it can survive on its own. Not all plants can be successfully translocated.
The Botanist will be on site to collect these plants during preclearance. These plants will be flagged YELLOW. They will be removed from disturbance sites and placed in new environments. When this has been completed Contractors will receive notification from the Environmental Project Manager (Mellissa Jess) that the area is free to clear. Yellow flagging tape means it’s not free to clear, yet.
Regional Project Benefits and Jobs
The Mt Emerald Wind Farm will provide immediate and long-term local and regional benefits. An estimated $66.8M direct and $44.3M indirect will be injected into the regional economy from the Mt Emerald Wind Farm project.
A construction crew of between 150-200 will be needed to build Mt Emerald Wind Farm. These construction workers and their families will require accommodation, food and local services for approximately two years.
The construction crew will comprise, at a minimum, RATCH staff plus local, national and international experts; truck and crane operators; concrete pourers; road construction crews; mechanical and electrical engineers; site supervisors of operations, including safety and environmental officers; specialist and general electrical technicians; mechanical technical staff. Where these services are available locally they will be sourced where practicable.
Vestas/CPP/Catcon have been appointed to construct the site. Job Offers/ Work Packages are to be advertised on the major projects ICN Gateway and on the Contractors websites:
Already, local expertise has been provided to undertake research and put together the required environmental and planning approvals information. Local consulting firm RPS collated the Environmental Impact Statement using local scientists, consultants and engineers to ensure information is local and relevant to the project.
Full Time Permanent Jobs
Following construction, there will be 15 full time positions for at least 25 years. These positions will be held by local residents who will up-skill to be part of the team, or new residents who will require housing, jobs for their families, access to schools, places to shop and enjoy recreational activities.
Wind Farm Maintenance Jobs
The Mt Emerald Wind Farm will require local providers of:
Wind Turbine servicing, cleaning and electrical maintenance; site management and administration; environmental services – ongoing monitoring of birds and bats, feral pest and weed control, and fire management.
Local procurement has commenced, with: • Koppens and Mareeba Crane Hire constructing the concrete culvert to protect the irrigation channel during December 2016. • A new vehicle purchased from Mareeba Toyota, January 2017 • Contracting of the MBarBarrum Aboriginal Corporation to undertake Cultural Heritage surveys and assist with environmental surveys during the entire construction period.…
Project and Compliance Updates
Early works commenced February 14th on the transport depot laydown area at the base of the site. All pre-start UXO, Cultural Heritage and Environmental surveys have been conducted to verify the site is ‘ready to go’. Flagging of works area has occurred to limit the extent of clearing, in preparation for pad establishment. Letters of…