Photo: PAUL MENSCH

By VINNIE RODI

CONSTRUCTION of Lower Murray Water’s (LMW) latest infrastructure upgrade project, SMP2 (Sunraysia Modernisation Project 2), will get under way in the coming weeks.

SMP2 aims to deliver water to areas west of Merbein and south of Red Cliffs, with Project Director Andrew Kremor, PICTURED, confirming this week that Fulton Hogan Construction had won a tender to carry out the works.

“The plan is to have water available for the 2019/20 irrigation season, so we’re planning on having SMP2 completed by the end of October,” he said. “We’re scheduling works around our growers and what they are doing.

“Our winter months are the perfect time for this type of work to take place to ensure the system can run as SMP2 is installed.”

A Federal Government contribution of $3.025million and private investment is funding the project, which is designed to utilise existing pump station capacity at Red Cliffs and Merbein to secure supply for new horticultural developments.

SMP2 will replace more than three kilometres of channel in the Merbein irrigation district, and close to four kilometres of channel in Red Cliffs, and once complete will enable up to 2000 hectares of new table grapes, citrus, almonds, wine grapes and winter crops to be established in low impact salinity zones.

“An analysis was undertaken to consider existing demand, unused, but issued, deliver share capacity and future in-district growth, and determined that there was 100ML per day of spare peak capacity at Red Cliffs, and 75ML per day at Merbein,” Mr Kremor said.

“To deliver this additional water, the SMP2 project identified constraints that would be relieved through new regulators, expanded culverts and by lining and raising channels. 

“Relatively low level investment was required to leverage the SMP investment to deliver on-going benefits to new and existing customers as well as the community.

“Increased capacity utilisation of existing infrastructure will also result in a range of benefits to the existing 2800 LMW irrigation customers, including cost benefits, with SMP2 to also enable LMW to build on the previous success of the SMP project, and further develop its capabilities for future projects, while building resilience into our community and the region.”

Mr Kremor said that existing LMW irrigation customer committees has been engaged in the development of SMP2 from the outset.

“We had to do that,” he said. “People were willing to pay for this current project… the market dictated how big it (SMP2) was.

“We have a reasonable proportion of winter crops out this way too, which is nice for the district and for the project, as it takes some of that risk away.”

Mr Kremor said that other benefits associated with SMP2 included a $16million increase in the annual value of production to the Victorian economy, and a $10million increase in annual income to Sunraysia’s regional economy. Thirty new jobs will also be created.

Mr Kremor also moved to allay fears that the project’s completion would compound any future water shortages or reductions in irrigation allocations.

“Investors have to find water, we’re not responsible for that,” Mr Kremor said. “Another key point for existing customers is that new customers will be paying exactly the same usage fees and delivery share fees – there’s no subsidy either way.”

Mr Kremor said that the supply for existing customers would also take precedence once SMP2 was complete.

“If there’s some failure of pumps upstream, the supply reliability to existing customers will be unaffected,” he said.