How green is pipeline?

Dr DW Van der Zel, Strand

Your front page article, “L’Ormarins goes green” (Bolander, March 29) demands a green reaction. How can such an interference in nature ( pipelines via helicopters in pristine mountain catchment) be called green?

This is not a communal Steenbras Dam type of development to the benefit of all of us – this is a private development primarily for own use for vineyards, wine estate and car museum, and then only for part of the year.

In my previous life I was a mountain catchment management specialist. I do not see approval of Water Affairs? Was the water collector on state land? Was it established on declared mountain catchment land in terms of the Mountain Catchment Areas Act?

Was the public in any way consulted? Who receives the water after having gone through the wine estate, restaurant and car museum?

And all this happening at a time when the Western Cape experiences a severe drought.

Robert Hobson, L’Ormarins estate manager, responds:

The hydropower project at L’Ormarins was executed with full approval from the requisite authorities.

A full Environment Impact Assessment was conducted, which included an opportunity for public comment, and a positive record of decision was handed down by the Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning.

The national Department of Water Affairs was consulted, and the necessary approvals and licences were obtained. An impact study was done on the fynbos as well as the river aquatics prior to the start of the project.

The catchment is on mountain land managed by Cape Nature who have issued a licence for the activity.

The quantum of flow over the weir is diverted to the turbines, after which it is returned to the river. The water abstracted is metered and used in accordance with our riparian rights.

At the weir, the first 70 litre/ second bypasses the hydro system and the project does not in any way impact water usage, in the context of the current drought.

Using helicopters to construct the weir and pipeline, allowed us to have minimal impact on the fauna and flora along the pipe track. The pipeline is suspended above the ground for most of its length, specifically to lessen ecological impact.

While the project is for the direct benefit of L’Ormarins, it has zero carbon footprint while generating electricity.

While in operation during the winter months, it lessens the load on Eskom, and contributes to net power generation, at a time when energy demand is at its peak.