The South Australian Government has accepted the advice of the SA Water Board that Billy Lights Point is the preferred location for a desalination plant at Port Lincoln should the project proceed.
With time running out before the region faces serious water security issues, SA Water will proceed with preparatory works at Billy Lights Point.
However, the final decision on the plant will be informed by a separate business case being prepared by Infrastructure SA into the Northern Water Supply project which is examining a new and sustainable water supply for the far north and Upper Spencer Gulf.
SA Water is continuing to work with the Northern Water Supply Project team to assess if this is a viable solution.
Opposition leader David Speirs first flagged the project in 2018 before shelving it and establishing a site selection committee without any funding attached, leaving the region perilously close to running out of drinking water by 2025.
The site selection committee’s proposed Sleaford West site would cost up to $150 million more than the estimated $313 million Billy Lights Point proposal and that would be worn by SA Water customers across South Australia.
The Sleaford West site also poses a number of geological and transport challenges that would be difficult to overcome.
A South Australian Research and Development Institute report into the environmental impacts of Billy Lights Point found it can be built without negatively impacting the local marine environment. Oceanographic modelling by SARDI shows that once the plant is operational, long-term salinity levels in the bay will remain within natural background levels.
Billy Lights Point is also a former industrial site situated away from residential properties and set back from the coastline meaning there will be less impact on residents and the natural environment.
With up to 230 jobs expected to be created through the construction phase, Port Lincoln locals will be prioritised for employment on the plant.
The Malinauskas government understands the water security issues affecting the region and is working to find a long-term a solution.
Attributable to Susan Close
If it does proceed at Billy Lights Point, the estimated $313 million plant will provide a reliable source of climate-independent drinking water and largely replace the existing reliance on groundwater and the River Murray.
This important project was unnecessarily delayed for years because the Liberal Party was more concerned about holding the seat of Flinders than they were about ensuring Port Lincoln residents had access to drinking water.
Mr Speirs’ delay also means South Australian taxpayers are going to be saddled with the steep rises in building costs which have occurred over the past year or so.
The Adelaide Desalination Plant constructed by SA Water has had no negative impact to the marine environment and we expect this to be the case at Billy Lights Point.
SA Water is committed to working with stakeholders within the aquaculture industry to ensure the design of Billy Lights Point does not affect their industry.