Flora and fauna field work starts along future GWH tunnel corridor

17 November 2021

A team of ecologists will start work this month to document local wildlife and plants in the Blue Mountains and Hartley Valley, to ensure impacts to local flora and fauna are minimised during construction of tunnel bypasses of Blackheath and Mount Victoria on the Great Western Highway.

Field work investigations will provide a baseline understanding of species in the Blue Mountains, so any impacts can be mitigated in the design of the Blackheath to Little Hartley section.

Transport for NSW A/Director West Kristy Hartwig said the studies will start on Monday, 22 November, and may continue until late February at locations along the proposed tunnel corridor at Blackheath, Mount Victoria and Little Hartley.

“A team of ecologists will operate on foot and use a variety of low impact methods to record the existing flora and fauna along the road corridor,” Ms Hartwig said.

“They will map landscape features like hollow-bearing trees, caves, rock outcrops, and waterways for evidence of use, particularly by threatened species.

“The purpose of these biodiversity studies is to establish a baseline of species which are common to this part of the world so we can create the best possible environment-led design.

“Data collected by the team will feed into the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Blackheath to Little Hartley section of the upgrade. Our goal then will be to design the best possible infrastructure around the plant and wildlife colonies we have identified, as we prepare to build the underground section of the highway upgrade.

“The ecologists contracted for this very important job will be keeping a keen eye out for the Bathurst Copper Butterfly, Paralucia spinifera, which is one of Australia’s rarest butterfly species and commonly found between Bathurst and Hartley but may also be established in the central Blue Mountains.

“The team are keen to hear from the community about the locations of any threatened species they are aware of in their local area, so that we can use that information make sure our investigations are thorough.”

She said other investigation data along with the biodiversity surveys which will feed into the EIS and the development of the design, will include geotechnical surveys, noise monitoring, traffic studies, geospatial surveys, hydrogeology investigations, and environmental surveys.

“These investigations are to determine any threatened species or habitats to ensure we minimise impacts as we continue to finalise the best design for this important infrastructure upgrade,” Ms Hartwig said.

“The ecologists will be surveying their surroundings both day and night using handheld GPS devices, cameras, overnight traps, audio recording devices and other recording equipment.”

Field work will be carried out on weekdays between 8am and 5pm and between 7pm and 10pm for acoustic monitoring, weather permitting. There will be no impacts to traffic.

For more information on the Great Western Highway upgrade between Katoomba and Lithgow, visit: nswroads.work/gwhd

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