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Mooi-Mgeni River Transfer Scheme Phase 2 (MMTS 2)

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Announcements

Background

The Mgeni System comprises four major dams on the Mgeni River (Midmar, Albert Falls, Nagle and Inanda), which supplies water to about 5 million people residing in the municipal areas of the eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality (Durban and environs), the Msunduzi Local Municipality (Pietermaritzburg) and the uMgungundlovu District Municipality (towns and villages around Pietermaritzburg). The Mgeni River is already fully developed and its water supplies need to be augmented from rivers in neighboring catchments. Pre-feasibility investigations into the augmentation of the water supplies of the Mgeni System from the Mkomazi and Mooi Rivers already started in the mid 1990s.

These Pre-feasibility investigations recommended that the Mooi River be first developed due the high cost of developing a scheme on the Mkomazi River that would have severe water tariff impacts. These Pre-feasibility studies also indicated that development of the Mooi River could be done in two phases. The Mooi-Mgeni Transfer Scheme Phase-1 (MMTS-1) is already in place and utilizes the transfer infrastructure of the transfer infrastructure of the emergency scheme which was constructed in 1983 to bring relief during a severe drought that nearly depleted Midmar Dam of all its storage.

The MMTS-1 was completed in 2003 and comprises the construction of Mearns Weir on the Mooi River at Mearns, to increase the volume of water that can annually be transferred from the Mooi to the Mgeni River, and the raising of Midmar Dam by 3.5m created storage for the transferred water within the Mgeni catchment. Mearns Weir is situated immediately downstream of the confluence of the Mooi and Little Mooi rivers and has a storage capacity for about 10 days of pumping at a maximum rate of 3.6m3/s. Mearns Weir cannot transfer all the water available for transfer from the Mooi River and a considerable portion still flows unutilized over the weir.

The Mooi-Mgeni Transfer Scheme Phase-2 (MMTS-2) will comprise the construction of Spring Grove Dam further upstream on the Mooi River, about 8km south from the Mearns Weir, as well as a new pumping station and transfer pipeline. Construction of the MMTS-2 would not render the MMTS-1 useless since the MMTS-1 is the only scheme that can transfer available water from the Little Mooi River to the Mgeni System, and therefore the MMTS-1 will remain operational as a run-of-river scheme even with the MMTS-2 in place.

Overview of the Mooi River Catchment

The Mooi River rises in the Drakensberg Mountains in the Mkomazi Nature Reserve near Giant’s Castle. The river flows in a north easterly direction and until its confluence with the Tugela River near Muden. The Major tributary of the Mooi River is the Little Mooi River.

The Mooi River Catchment has a total area of approximately ____ km2 and the upper portion of the catchment is in a pristine condition since it is located within the Kamberg and Mkomazi Nature Reserves. The Mean Annual Runoff (MAR) of the Mooi River ______ million ms3 and the Mean Annual Precipitation of the catchment is about ______ mm.

There are currently no large dams in the Mooi River, except for Mearns Weir at the confluence of the Mooi and Little Mooi rivers. The remainder of the catchment, downstream of the nature reserves, is developed in terms of agriculture.

The largest existing water users in the catchment are irrigators and inter-basin transfers from the Mooi River to the Mgeni System from Mearns Weir. There are many farm dams in the catchment on small tributaries of the Mooi River, which are mainly used for irrigation and trout fishing. The area is also a popular tourist destination, and recreational fishing, e.g. trout, is one of the main attractions and a catalyst for development in the area. The tourism industry is a significant contributor to the local economy and development of the area.

Background to the Public Involvement Process to date

In line with the Department’s commitment to transparency and open communication, public involvement was a very important component of the Feasibility Study for the project. A Record of Public Involvement in the planning and development process is a pre-requisite of the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT) for a scheme of this nature. Interaction with affected parties is also fundamental in the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) to ascertain the issues, concerns and impacts. The fundamental aim with the public participation process to date is to identify interested and affected parties as well as to record their concerns and suggestions to ensure that these are addressed during the planning and implementation of the project. Public participation was conducted through public meetings, stakeholder meetings, interviews with affected land owners, questionnaires were completed by affected land owners, a news letter and ongoing consultation with affected parties.

Changes and new development has taken place since the EIA for the project was completed in 2001. Despite the ongoing consultation with affected parties the EIA for the project need to be reviewed, especially to update the social aspects, and to comply with all the environmental legislation. This review and final completion of the EIA will involve further public participation in terms of the environmental legislation. The Department already compiled a Terms of Reference for the review and completion of the EIA and we are in the process of procuring professional services for this assignment. You are also invited to browse the EIA section.