GIANT earthworms have caused an unexpected delay in the construction of the $43 million Lance Creek Water Connection pipeline, but South Gippsland Water says the region’s most significant water security project is still on track to be completed by June 2019.
A spokesperson for South Gippsland Water, which is delivering the Lance Creek Connection project on behalf of the Victorian Government, says construction work had to be temporarily halted recently, after the project team discovered evidence of Giant Earthworms near Korumburra in an area that hadn’t previously been identified as a likely habitat.
The elusive Giant Gippsland Earthworm is the largest of Australia’s wide variety of earthworms, growing to an average of three feet long (and up to six to 10 feet) with a one-inch diameter.
The Giant Gippsland species occurs only in a 40,000-hectare area in south and west Gippsland and as of 2012, is listed as a threatened and protected species under the Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988.
“Prior to construction, South Gippsland Water developed plans to minimise impacts on Gippsland Giant Earthworm habitats including horizontal drilling to avoid known colonies areas,” the spokesperson said.
“In response to the find, work was halted while experts were consulted. Work resumed after site inspection and consultation on how to progress without damaging the habitats or earthworms.”
Despite this curious hiccup, South Gippsland Water said the project has remained within the completion timeline and on budget to date.
“Construction of a large project in the natural environment will inevitably result in unexpected events. Geological and climatic conditions have impacted areas of the process since construction commenced in 2017, however all areas of construction associated with Lance Creek Water Connection are running to schedule.”
The two sections of pipeline needed for the project are nearing completion, with 19.3km of pipeline installed in the 20km section between the Lance Creek Reservoir and the Korumburra Water Treatment Plant, and 5.9km of pipeline installed in the 9km section between Korumburra and the Poowong Water Treatment Plant.
New water transfer pump stations are also under construction at Lance Creek and Korumburra Water Treatment Plants.
At Lance Creek, concrete pours for the new pump plinths are complete and concrete foundation edge beam works have commenced. At Korumburra, construction on pipe strings are underway and excavation works for the pump station installation have commenced.
Power upgrades are also progressing to meet the demands of treatment and supply of additional water to the pipeline, and solar power is likely to be used to help augment capacity in the future.
The Lance Creek Water Connection will service a population of approximately 4600, in an area of the region where communities are growing and townships are expanding.
The project aims to secure the water supply needs of Korumburra, Poowong, Loch and Nyora for the next 50 years.