Contrasting assessments have emerged of how a future Lower Hunter dam would impact sensitive native species.
Surface water option assessment reviews of the potential Limeburners Creek and Upper Chichester dam sites conducted by GHD in 2019 highlight a significant number of potential threatened flora and fauna species
As an example, the Limeburners Creek study found 28 potentially threatened flora species and seven primary koala feed trees.
By comparison, Hunter Water's recently released 'summary of ecological studies' for the sites lists relatively few potential impacts.
The Healthy Hunter Rivers Group which is fighting to stop the construction of new Hunter dams, says the summaries are deliberately misleading.
"It is inconceivable in the current context that Hunter Water would be considering new dam options that would drown Koala habitat. These dam proposals should be ruled out and Hunter Water directed to focus on water efficiency, recycling and re-use options," Independent MLC Justin Field said.
"Some of the areas that would be flooded in the proposed new dam sites were put away as permanently protected biodiversity offsets. It makes a mockery of biodiversity protection laws in NSW that a state-owned corporation is spending money investigating options that would see biodiversity offsets destroyed."
A Hunter Water spokesman said the summary of ecological studies documents were based on the findings of targeted ecological fieldwork conducted over a week earlier this year by consultants Umwelt.
The GHD report was a desktop analysis of the area.
Hunter Water received the Umwelt report in late September. In contrast to the GHD reports, it was not captured in a recent call for papers moved by Mr Field.
"The studies completed to date or the summary document are not designed to be a final environmental assessment," the Hunter Water spokesman said.
"The studies completed to date will be used to assist decision making in comparing the impacts of various supply and demand options. The adopted methodology is appropriately robust for this purpose, and this is consistent with the approach routinely undertaken by government when assessing infrastructure options.
"Should it be determined that a new dam is one of the preferred options ... a thorough environmental assessment would still be undertaken in accordance with best practice and the requirements of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act."
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