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A 105km water pipeline proposal for North Queensland is advancing through the approvals process and proponents will be pushing for co-ordinated project status for the $160 million venture.

Bowen Pipeline Company is aiming for a mid-2023 start to construction for the underground pipeline, which would stretch from the Burdekin River at Home Hill, south to Bowen.

Majority owned by local growers, the group recently lodged the federal environmental referral for the Bowen Pipeline Project and has also lodged paperwork for a National Water Grid Infrastructure grant to undertake a detailed business case with the Queensland Department of Regional Development, Manufacturing and Water.

“In September 2021, we plan to lodge our application for designation as a co-ordinated project with the Office of the Coordinator-General,” director Sean Brown said.

“We request that the State support this project so that we can continue to progress towards our target date for the commencement of construction in March-June 2023, subject to the receipt of all required approvals.”

Mr Brown said the project would bring a reliable, secure water supply to Australia’s largest winter vegetable growing area – currently growing some $500 million-worth of fruit and vegetables each year. 

It would use world-class Australian technology for the onsite extrusion of the HDPE pipe in 200m lengths, with water users utilising modern trickle and drip technology to eliminate water runoff, he said.

A KPMG assessment showed the project would create up to 3000 full-time jobs when operational, in addition to about 145 jobs during construction (peaking around 205), Mr Brown said. 

Access to the resulting water supply was expected to boost annual local crop production by upwards of $400 million. 

“The project will solve a big local problem by supplying irrigation water and improving the use of up to 20,000ha of cleared Class A and B Good Quality Agricultural Land. Currently this land is solely used for cattle grazing,” Mr Brown said.

The development will include 105km of underground trenching; underboring of 12 rivers and creeks; culverts for multiple road crossings; five pump stations with 16 to 20 large water pumps moving 100,000 ML per year; and on-farm works for new storage tanks, piping, cold storage and sheds.

Mr Brown expected the group would have to appoint a Tier 1 or Tier 2 contractor to lead the project for financing purposes. “But we would look to use a fair bit of local input and machinery rather than importing workers,” he said.

Mr Brown said Bowen Pipeline Company had already secured the land required for the pipeline alignment and pump stations (conditional), completed all current environmental and planning reporting, and secured water allocations (conditional).

It is seeking Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility funding to help support the development.