Tag Archives: Catagunya Power Station

From Catagunya to Wayatinah – post 1 of 4

Well over a year ago, one morning I walked through smoky air westwards into the Catagunya Power Station.  After a night camping, entwined by the thick atmosphere of a far distant bush fire and desperate for water, I was relieved to be received hospitably at the Station.  At that time I was thrilled by a guided tour of the building and its operation, however I never proceeded to walk the extra few hundred metres to look at the Dam wall holding back the large Lake Catagunya.  I was most grateful when many months ago, my walking proxy Andrew climbed the hills from Wayatinah Power Station to arrive at and photograph the Catagunya Dam.  A blog search using “Catagunya” as the term, will help you to locate those past stories plus a swag of descriptive photographs.

Recently, I was privileged to make the journey between the Catagunya and Wayatinah Power Stations and to experience that stimulating environment. Thanks to the generous assistance of GL from TasNetworks,  I was able to enter the locked Catagunya Road off the Lyell Highway, and travel the 8 or so kilometres to the Catagunya Dam.

The wall of the Dam curved magnificently and  the landscape-green Lake Catagunya spread impassively to the west. 20170424_104221.jpg

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Below I could see the old Derwent River bed as a rocky almost water free pathway.

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Bypassing the river bed, a massive Canal drained water from the Lake into the Power Station. It appeared as a giant marker on the landscape that seemed much wider and more substantial than the Tarraleah Canals that run from Lake King William and the Butlers Gorge Power Station further inland.    20170424_104148

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The apparently still Canal water was deceptive. Only on closer inspection could I see the dramatic gush of water moving underneath the left hand entrance at the end of the race.  Obviously electrical power was being generated in the Catagunya Power Station that day.

From vantage points near the Dam and the Canal I could see the Power Station building way below. Oh how tiny it seemed by comparison with the larger constructions. Yet when I had first approached and walked around it, the building seemed cavernous.

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More than anything I was as excited as a three year old having a birthday party with lots of surprises.  Recent rain had cleared the air of dust, the day was overcast and the fairy weight of moisture from low clouds kept the air moist. I kept breathing deeply, absorbing the cleanness of the air. Loving the damp air. Feeling cleansed. So profoundly happy to be back in the bush and walking besides my beloved Derwent River.

Between Wayatinah and Catagunya Power Stations- posting 6 of 6

 

The goal was achieved. It was great to have it done. I am very grateful for Andrew’s generosity of spirit and for his notes and photographs. The walk between Wayatinah and Catagunya Power Stations could be ticked off the list. But a long walk back to the Lyell Highway had to be faced before returning home. Andrew turned north for the 7 km walk on Catagunya Road. He passed a mix of open unfenced paddocks and distant plantations. The Cooma farmstead and outbuildings were the only marker that people had lived in the area.

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For a brief moment he thought he would have company. Andrew had been walking for a while when, in the distance on a straight stretch of road, he could just make out a couple of figures coming slowly towards him.  Someone to say g’day to and have a natter  – but  – on closer inspection they transformed into ambling sheep. After that, Andrew’s company all the way back to the locked gate was a rather large herd of very healthy looking quadrupedal steaks – which, with a spritely step, he kept ahead of. After some 7 hours of pleasant walking, this walk along the Derwent River was over.   There had been time for plenty of stops during the day to take photographs and to enjoy the surroundings.

Hydro Tasmania, TasNetworks and forestry related employees can drive over the convoluted maze of tracks between the two dams, but there are numerous locked gates and no general public access.  Even during the walking, many locked gates with serious double and complicated locks were seen. I have said in earlier postings that landowners and managers in the Derwent Valley and Central Highlands can recite histories of bad experiences with people entering their lands and not treating it appropriately or stealing their wood or livestock. It is a shame that a few people wreck it for the rest, and remove the opportunities for those who care for the land and the property of others and wish to explore more of our wonderful Tasmanian natural environment.

 

Between Wayatinah and Catagunya Power Stations- posting 5 of 6

 

Above the complex of Catagunya Lake, Dam and Power Station there were a number of viewing points from which to study the construction of the dam, the head race, switch yard, etc. It was so easy to admire the engineering feat that established this enterprise. Water was not moving in the race so it seemed that the Catagunya Power Station was closed down.  Maintenance? Too much power being generated elsewhere? Water conservation and therefore prudent power generation management practices?  The reason is unknown.

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Did you notice how thin the water race walls were?  If you imagine the pressure of the water in the race you might believe the walls should be thicker. Certainly, when compared to those of Tarraleah Canal No 1 (refer to photos in my earlier postings) these walls are much slimmer, and they do not have cross beams linking both sides together.

Did you notice the ladder over the wall?  On this side and a second on the other side?  This is more than is on offer in Tarraleah Canal No 1.  Of course the ladders would be used as part of maintenance programs when the race is empty, and only a fool would step over the edge while the race is full of water. Since the power generation could be restarted at any moment, the speed of the water flow would almost immediately turn anything in that water into an electrical spark.

When looking at the Dam wall, Andrew saw specks of movement; these were the only people encountered in the whole day – three workers doing some work on the curving face of dam’s spillway. Can you spot them in the photograph?  They are working on the yellow curved frame which has been custom built to move from left to right across the curve of the dam wall.

Andrew remarked, “I could hear their voices echoing off the concrete walls, but they were far too distant for them to see me”. There was no-one at the Power Station itself – so Andrew passed by with no-one the wiser that the visit had occurred.   One sign attracted his attention.

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It was quite extraordinary to see a sign with an image of a dolphin so far inland. Hydro Tasmania must be congratulated for alerting others to the damage which can be done to marine life should people pollute Lake Catagunya/the Derwent River.   Apart from the damage to sea life 60% of Hobart’s drinking water comes from the Derwent River so the protection of these waterways is of paramount importance.

Between Wayatinah and Catagunya Power Stations- posting 4 of 6

Eventually Andrew reached cleared paddocks at the point where the transmission line swung to the south east.  The going then was much easier through low scrub in a shallower gully and then up onto the summit of Bushman’s Hill, some three hours after the start of the day’s walk.  From this hill Mt Wellington above Hobart was visible in the distance, and Andrew’s mobile phone pinged. He had come back into mobile phone coverage range. The one occasional bar of reception was enough for a text message but not sufficient for a phone call. Bushman’s Hill offered a very comfortable spot with the occasional shade tree and logs to rest on.

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After a quick lunch around 1 pm, Andrew followed the power line easement hoping to get to  Lake Catagunya’s edge. Unfortunately, the terrain became impressively steep and scrubby with a coverage of thick ferns towards the bottom so that idea was abandoned.

Before crossing Lake Catagunya’s inlet, as Andrew skirted around looking for a cross over point, Dunns Hill stood prominently. This hill, pictured below, had to be traversed to reach Catagunya Dam and Catagunya Power Station. But first the water had to be crossed or walked around.

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The challenge was to find a way of by-passing the large inlet of water where Black Bobs Rivulet enters Catagunya Lake. By heading 1 km north, north east, then east through open forest and then progressively steeper country Andrew reached a point where the rivulet hit the Lake. Right at the junction the exposed rock made for an easy rock-hop to the other side (in flood this part would be impassable as it is obvious that it carries a lot of water after heavy rain). He was so glad to see the low water level at that point. otherwise it would have meant wet feet or more kilometres of walking to skirt around this obstacle.

The first photo below of Black Bob’s Rivulet looks upstream and the second looks downstream to where it enters the lake.

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The open hill in the distance on the second photo is located north of Catagunya Dam and on the other/eastern side of Catagunya Road – this is not Dunns Hill.  Once over Black Bob’s Rivulet, the direction taken was south towards Dunns Hill. After a short scrub-bash, the route emerged into the open paddocks of the cattle country surrounding Catagunya Power Station. Andrew then climbed 1 km steeply up Dunns Hill to rejoin the power lines.  The reward for reaching the top of Dunns Hill was a fine view down into the Lake and westwards to Wylds Craig.

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Looking westwards the continuing power lines disappear into the distance. The undulating nature of the landscape is also on show.

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The glorious openness of Dunns Hill with its vistas on a sunny day, provided the stimulus for creative photography showcasing the patterns offered by the electricity transmission pylons and the grass.  DSC01711e.jpg

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The final kilometre to the power station was through open grasslands, buzzing with grasshoppers and butterflies.  It was like creating a bow wave; with each step the masses of insects were spread ahead.  My walk from Lake Repulse Dam to Catagunya Dam was in similar country and the postings  3 and 4 of 13 talk about my experiences with grasshoppers and butterflies.

I am very keen on grass with its colours and textures. Long term blog readers have seen many photos of grasses taken in many locations during my walk along the Derwent.  Andrew’s photo below shows Dunns Hill grass moved by the breeze.

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Navigation during this walk was never in doubt – the prominent shadow on the grass from the transmission cables overhead marked the route to the power station!  See the shadow line in the photo below.  Of course if the inland forest plantation/logging roads had been followed (which might be necessary in wet weather and when Black Bob’s Rivulet was flooding), then using GPS equipment would have been essential to keep track of your location. power-line-shadowv2-1

The day was glorious and the following panoramic photo captures some of that magic.

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Between Wayatinah and Catagunya Power Stations- posting 2 of 6

Throughout the walk between the Wayatinah and Catagunya Power Stations, a number of creeks cut across the power line easement creating deep gullies with their own special environments of thick forests. In some spots these make progress slow.

Only the first creek had running and potable water. The other creek beds were dry and even if water had flowed, the extensive plantation forests or agricultural lands where chemicals are used, sit upstream so it would have been inadvisable to drink the water.

Long term readers know how on my walks I have been able to see the Derwent River (and its lakes and dams)  but in almost all cases I could not reach it to refill my water bottles.  The escarpments, rocks, steepness and dense vegetation to the water’s edge prevented access.  With that constraint plus finding dry creek beds, managing my water supply was always a challenge.  Water, water everywhere/over there but not a drop to drink!  Despite the weight of water, I strongly advise anyone walking inland in Tasmania in summer to carry plenty of water.

 

Visualising walks in advance is another form of planning

A recent blog posting provided the ‘story’ of how I imagined a walking stage would progress along one section of the Derwent River.  On paper, such visualisations have acted as a planning tool to remind me of the potential challenges ahead and the work I needed to do to make sure I was able to have a safe walk within a reasonable time frame.  Another ‘big think’ happened in relation to the walk between Wayatinah and Catagunya Power Stations.

In the photo below, water gushing from the Wayatinah Power Station adds to the volume of Lake Catagunya near its western extremity.   20151029_090827.jpg

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This expanse of water, fed by the Derwent and Florentine Rivers further upstream, extends approximately 7 -8 kilometres as a substantial water storage holding until it reaches the Catagunya Dam wall and then passes through the Catagunya Power Station at the eastern end of the Lake. Earlier walks had taken me to both hydro electricity generating power stations, and during one walk I was privileged to be shown over the remote and isolated Catagunya Power Station complex.

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How to tackle the distance between the two locations?  Should I start my walk from the eastern or western end?  Should I walk on the southern or northern side of the Lake? The terrain to be covered included private property so what permissions needed to be acquired and from whom?

At first, I inspected the last official map printed by the Tasmanian government, the 1993 map titled ‘Strickland 4630’ in combination with perusing the Google Earth map for the same territory. In addition, I used my on-the-ground first-hand knowledge of the terrain and the vegetation at both ends of the stage from having visited in association with other walks, and aerial photos taken early during this Walking the Derwent project.

Michelle’s photos show Wayatinah Power Station in the distance near the western end of Lake Catagunya,  a section of the curved shape of the Lake, and Catagunya Dam and Power Station. Each photo clearly shows the incline from water level to the plateau above.

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My aerial photos show  Wayatinah Power Station behind an expanse of Lake  Catagunya, the major inlet close to the eastern end of the Lake, and the Catagunya Dam and Power Station complex.  The density of the forests and the hilly terrain are clearly shown.

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Chantale’s aerial photos show the inlet, fed by Black Bob’s Rivulet, near the eastern end of the Lake.

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What I had seen on the ground and in the air was not what maps showed. For example at the Catagunya end, massive comparatively new pine plantations had swept across hills where natural bush once grew.  This meant that a mesh of unmapped forestry roads would have been built and that these would make navigation confusing without a compass and/or GPS equipment.

Clearly the edges of the Lake were/are exceptionally steep and if my walks elsewhere in the region were used as a guide, the slopes would be a mixture of dense wet rainforest tangled around partially hidden rocky outcrops.  Both sides of the Lake have sections which rise over 200 metres within half a kilometre.  All indications are that walking at water level would be impossible. If Plan A to walk alongside the Lake wasn’t possible, what should be Plan B?

On the northern side, skyscraper-high electricity transmission structures with their connecting wires have been installed in a straight line from the Wayatinah to Catagunya Power Stations and located roughly at the top of the steep incline from the Lake. I felt this line would be the best option for progress. During construction, an area of less than hundred metres wide was cleared to create a pathway for vehicles to use. Perfect for easy walking?  Reflections on past experiences suggest not.  This is rainforest territory and as a constantly regenerating living organism, I realised that I should expect the forest to have begun to re-establish itself. I recalled walking along the ‘cleared’ transmission lines area through the most challenging vegetation on unseeable uneven ground at the northern end of Lake King William. It was slow, tedious work where a snapped ankle was always a possibility.

Thinking of the Wayatinah to Catagunya leg, I made a note to contact TasNetworks to see whether their clearing program had reached this transmission area, and whether I could hope for a reasonably straightforward walk along this line.  Google maps indicate a vehicular road leaves the Wayatinah Power Station area and continues eastwards for the first half a kilometre of the 7 km line of towers.  It seems to stops short of the first heavily forested gully that cuts deeply through the landscape and which contributes water downhill to Lake Catagunya.  400 metres past that obstacle is a new similar impediment to smooth walking.  A third such impasse waits a further 400 metres eastwards.  In advance of the walk, it was easy to imagine the vegetation would be slippery with dripping water from the plants, the light levels amidst the tightly packed vegetation in the ravine would be low, and the flow of water over the centuries would have exposed rocky outcrops that would make descent and then ascent on the other side of the creek time consuming and treacherous.  Until in the presence of each ravine,  judgements could not be made as to whether to walk inland to skirt around the worst of the cuttings or whether it might be possible to descend and ascend on the other side safely and with my backpack still attached to my back.

Approximately half way through the walk after the three creeks, an undulating plateau with a lower gradient should be a welcome change for a few minutes before the terrain drops down to Bushman’s Hill. I would expect this site to be seriously forested and not to offer grand views of the Lake, and I would expect a mesh of unexpected and unpredictable forestry and Hydro Tasmania roads across the land. Ahead the land drops away rapidly, is crossed by another deep creek cutting, until it reaches a significant inlet body of water that is more than 100 metres wide. This water extends inland for over one kilometre.  Into this length of water flows Black Bob’s Rivulet which extends for many kilometres north west of this area. There would be no choice but to walk around this obstacle and cross the Rivulet where possible, until a connection with Catagunya Road could be made.  The degree of deviation will depend on the nature, location and extent of the plantation and natural forests.

Once on the Road, an easy gravel surface leads to Catagunya Dam and Power Station; perhaps 4 to 6 kilometres of road will need to be walked depending on the difficulty getting around the inlet.  After panoramic photos are taken to record the Lake and it’s edges, then a 7-8 km walk to the locked gate at the Lyell Highway will conclude this leg of the walk along the Derwent.

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All up, and at the best, perhaps 18-22 km would be walked in this stage.  If substantial rerouting around the creeks was required then the distance would be much longer.  Fundamentally, I imagined this was a walk of clambering up and descending steep forested hills relentlessly. Depending on the density of vegetation in the ‘cleared’ transmission line area and then the difficulties crossing the creek cuttings, at best this walk might take 10 hours.  At worst, and probably realistically, it will require sleeping out overnight, and therefore I will walk with the full complement of camping gear.

Floods and water levels rising

 

When I walked  along bodies of water dammed on the Derwent River such as Lake King William, I remarked on the low water levels, showed photos of deep barren shores, and posted about the coming danger to Tasmania’s electricity supply.  You can refer to a range of posts for different views on this topic including the following examples: Tarraleah Canal No 1 walk – where is the water?,  Lake King William, The rocky shore, Looking for a place to camp overnight, Death and Lake King William, Rise and shine, Trackless under the powerlines, and Andrew Hughes has walked, rafted and canoed the Derwent over the past month.

Newspapers recorded some of the extremes; here is one of The Mercury examples.

Hydro Tasmania is the organisation which manages water resources  by selling power not only to Tasmanians but via an undersea link to Victorians and further afield on mainland Australia.  For a very long while Tasmania had an unusually low rainfall, then when the Bass Link failed at the end of last year, this meant Tasmania could not buy power from the mainland if in crisis.  Over half a year passed before the fault was repaired and in that time water levels in dams, lakes and the river dropped steadily. In damage control, as politicians and the community worried about the reducing water levels, Hydro Tasmania released the information that our State could survive and continue to generate sufficient electricity in the local newspaper with dams at an even lower capacity . Nevertheless failure for rains to fall, created a situation where massive banks of diesel power generators were installed.  The operation of these generators cost Tasmania millions of dollars. The photo in this article shows an area being prepared for generators, and then the next article shows the installation outside Catagunya Power Station.  Generators were placed in many locations.  This article shows banks of generators outside the Meadowbank Power Station;  this is the closest power station to Hobart and is one of many that operates using the water from the Derwent River.

The dry situation was desperate.  Cloud Seeding was being practised as an option to bring on the rain.

Eventually the gods or nature heeded the call and the heavens opened.  As winter approached, welcome rain poured and began to replenish our dams and lakes.  The rain was heavy and persisted so that the water levels improved dramatically.  In the process, many parts of Tasmania experienced severe floods.  Dramatic stories were released in the media . The Ouse River, which feeds into the Derwent River, was the site of the death of one man.

These were terrible days for many.

Now the climate seems has returned to some sense of balance.  Our glorious spring time, albeit with some hotter days than normal, has passed and summer has arrived.  We all hope for prudent management of electricity generating water resources and for intelligent planning for extreme events – which we know are now more frequent around the world. In this way, the Derwent River will remain a living and useful flow of water which poses little risk to affecting people, animals and the surrounding landscape.