Sleaford residents have welcomed news the planned $90 million desalination plant at Sleaford Bay will be relocated further away from a local natural landmark.
SA Water has confirmed that following extensive community engagement and further cultural heritage and technical investigations, the site of the Eyre Peninsula Desalination Plant at Sleaford Bay will be located further away from Sleaford Mere and whale aggregation areas.
An SA Water spokesperson said the preferred site of the plant was being finalised and site selection would prioritise minimising impact on native vegetation and visual amenity as well as good acoustic management.
"We will update the wider community as land acquisition and plans for the desalination project progress.
"We expect to begin construction of the desalination plant and other associated infrastructure in the first half of 2021, with a more detailed timeframe subject to the project receiving all required development and environmental approvals, as well as any technical constraints."
The news was welcomed by Sleaford resident David Farlam, who said most residents had raised concerns which included impact on whales and the surrounding environment, as well as logistics of services and impacts on their land.
He said it was a much better outcome to move the plant away from Sleaford Mere as it was important site geologically and as an ecosystem.
"Sleaford Mere is one of the biggest, partially fresh, freshwater ecosystems in South Australia and it contains what geologists call algal tufa," he said.
"The algal tufa is growing at the moment but algal tufa that grew millions of years ago became the stromatolites of today."
Mr Farlam said there were a number of threatened or endangered species in the area that needed to be protected, on top of visiting southern right whales there were emu wrens, metallic sun orchids and different butterfly and plant species.
"With the unique ecosystem people were concerned about the impact of establishing a desalination plant there, including the building of a wet well which may have had an impact on the water table," he said.
Earlier this year the state government announced work on the plant would begin in 2021 with the aim of being operational from early 2022, producing four gigalitres of water per year.