Australian dam project shelved to save fish, turtles

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Australia on Wednesday rejected plans to build a massive new dam, despite pleas it is needed to provide water to residents, because of its feared impact on endangered fish and turtles.

Environment Minister Peter Garrett said the 1.8 billion dollar (1.7 billion US) Traveston Crossing Dam, in Queensland state, would have had an irreversible impact on Australian Lungfish, the Mary River Turtle and Mary River Cod.

"It is clear to me that the Traveston Dam cannot go ahead without unacceptable impacts on matters of national environmental significance," Garrett told reporters.

"The area that would be flooded by this proposal is a critical habitat for populations of these species."

The state government had pushed for the dam, with Premier Anna Bligh saying it was "absolutely critical" for the future of southeast Queensland.

"We are the fastest growing region in Australia and the people who are moving here need to drink water, their families need water to bathe, the industries that employ them need water to operate," Bligh said.

Garrett's decision paves the way for a 10-day consultation process on alternatives, including the possibility of desalination plants, with the government set to announce a final decision on November 25.

The Australian Lungfish, the sole Australian survivor of a family of fishes that have been around since the dinosaurs, has fins that resemble flippers.