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Lake Pedder
Lake Pedder & Environs - 18.jpg
Lake Pedder, c. 1970
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Map showing Lake Pedder in Tasmania
Location South West Tasmania
Type
Etymology Sir John Pedder
Part of Upper Gordon River hydroelectric generation scheme
Primary inflows Frankland Range
River sources
  • Serpentine River
  • Huon River
Primary outflows
  • Serpentine River
  • Huon River
Catchment area 734 km2 (283 sq mi)
Basin countries Australia
Construction engineer Hydro Tasmania
First flooded 1972
Surface area 242 km2 (93 sq mi)
Average depth 13–16 m (43–52 ft) (as a reservoir)
Max. depth
  • +3 m (9.8 ft) (as a glacial lake);
  • 43 m (141 ft) (as a reservoir)
Water volume 2.9 km3 (0.70 cu mi)
Surface elevation 300 m (980 ft)
Islands
  • 2 (as a glacial lake);
  • 45 (as a reservoir)

Lake Pedder, once a glacial outwash lake, is a man-made impoundment and diversion lake located in the southwest of Tasmania, Australia. In addition to its natural catchment from the Frankland Range, the lake is formed by the 1972 damming of the Serpentine and Huon rivers by the Hydro Electric Commission of Tasmania for the purposes of hydroelectric power generation.

As a result, the flooded Lake Pedder now has a surface area of approximately 242 square kilometres (93 sq mi), making it Tasmania's second largest lake.

The original and modified lake

In early 20th century the original lake was named after Sir John Pedder, the first Chief Justice of Tasmania. The name of the original lake was officially transferred to the new man-made impoundment. Although the new Lake Pedder incorporates the original lake, it does not resemble it in size, appearance or ecology.

The new lake consists of an impoundment contained by three dams:

  • Serpentine Dam – a 38-metre (125 ft) high rockfill dam with a concrete upstream face on the Serpentine River.
  • Scotts Peak Dam – a 43-metre (141 ft) high rockfill dam with a bitumen upstream face on the upper reaches of the Huon River near Scotts Peak.
  • Edgar Dam – a 17-metre (56 ft) high rockfill dam at Lake Edgar near Scotts Peak.

The dams were designed and constructed by Tasmania's Hydro Electric Commission (HEC) as part of the Upper Gordon River hydro-electric generation scheme. The aim of this scheme was to increase Tasmania's capacity to generate hydro-electricity in accordance with the Tasmanian Government's policy of attempting to attract secondary industry to the State with the incentive of cheap renewable energy.

The new Huon Serpentine impoundment, which filled after the dams were completed in 1972, drains into Lake Gordon via the McPartlan Pass Canal at 42°51′4″S 146°11′2″E / 42.85111°S 146.18389°E / -42.85111; 146.18389. Together, the lakes form the biggest water catchment and storage system in Australia.

Damming

There were protests in Tasmania and mainland Australia at the flooding of the original lake, before, during and after construction of the dams. Protests began when in 1967 the Tasmanian Government revoked the status of the Lake Pedder National Park that had protected the lake since 1955. The role of the HEC as a surrogate wing of the Tasmanian government was perceived when the political or wider social dissent against the HEC power over the Tasmanian environment seemed impregnable. Tasmania's political leader, Premier Eric Reece and Allan Knight, the HEC Commissioner, were seen as the leading proponents of the 'damming' of Tasmania against any opinion to the contrary, and were not averse to taking their opinions to statewide and national advertising campaigns asserting their right to dam the lake.

Reece was well known for his staunch support of the HEC and its power development schemes on the Gordon River, which earned him the nickname "Electric Eric". In 1972, Reece approved the flooding of Lake Pedder, which proceeded despite a determined protest movement and a blank cheque offer from Prime Minister Gough Whitlam to preserve the Lake Pedder area. Reece refused Whitlam's offer, stating that he would "not have the Federal Government interfering with the sovereign rights of Tasmania".

"There was a National Park out there, but I can't remember exactly where it was . . . at least, it wasn't of substantial significance in the scheme of things. The thing that was significant was that we had to double the output of power in this state in ten years in order [to] supply the demands of industry and the community. And this was the scheme that looked as though it could do a greater part of [the] job for us."

A series of photographs in the 1976 Tasmanian Year book illustrated the process of flooding of the Lake Pedder area.

Lake Pedder extinctions

The Lake Pedder earthworm (Hypolimnus pedderensis) is only known by the type specimen collected from a beach on Lake Pedder, Tasmania in 1971. After the flooding of the lake, this invertebrate was never seen again. A 1996 survey that sought to determine whether the species still existed in the area failed to find any examples. Since 2003 the Lake Pedder Earthworm has been listed as extinct on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

An extinction claimed to have occurred after the flooding is that of the Lake Pedder planarian (Romankenkius pedderensis), an endemic flatworm. Since 1996 this invertebrate has also been listed as extinct on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. In 2012, the continued existence of this species was reported.

The Pedder galaxias, an Australian freshwater fish, is considered extinct in its natural habitat of Lake Pedder and its tributaries, although it still exists in captivity and in two translocated populations, one at Lake Oberon in the Western Arthurs mountain range and the other at a modified water supply dam near Strathgordon.

Restoration Campaign

To coincide with the United Nations Decade of Ecological Restoration, 2021-2030, the Lake Pedder Restoration Committee is aiming to have the lake restored to its original state. The committee, convened by Christine Milne with support from Todd Dudley, Bob Brown, Paul Thomas and more, plans to have an Ecological Management Plan to restore the original Lake Pedder and surrounding iconic ecosystems ready to go to Governments by 2021.

Gallery

Lake peddar
Panoramic view of 'new' Lake Pedder
Lake Pedder From Mt Eliza
Panoramic view of the 'new' Lake Pedder from Mount Eliza, Southwest National Park, Tasmania, Australia
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