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Extracting trees from Queensland’s Tinaroo dam

A Tasmanian logging company that harvests rare and expensive timbers from the bottom of man-made lakes and dams could expand its operations to north Queensland. Source: ABC Rural

Forestry company Hydrowood uses a barge with an excavator to extract trees that were submerged decades ago, during Australia’s dam-building era.

ABC’s Landline recently featured the company’s first attempts to harvest sunken timbers from the Pieman River Dam in Tasmania, where it hopes to soon uncover highly valuable 800-year-old Huon pine.

Darryn Crook, from Hydrowood, said Tinaroo Dam on the Atherton Tablelands could hold riches of its own.

“While we were doing our feasibility study for the operation we had some other dams of interest in Western Australia, New South Wales and Lake Tinaroo in north Queensland,” Mr Crook said.

“Once we bed down the operation in Tasmania there are other dams we want to look at.”

The company currently has interests in five Tasmanian lakes.

Mr Crook said if the company were to expand to north Queensland, he would first need to survey Tinaroo Dam to make sure the wood is salvageable.

“If that all works out we would look at moving operations up there to harvest some timber,” he said.

“As long as it has been submerged and has not been exposed to air, the lack of light and oxygen at depth in dams means the timber holds its quality really well.”

Mr Crook expects to find rainforest species of trees below the waters, as well as red cedar.

Kauri and Queensland maple, a variety of hardwood that grows between Townsville and the Windsor Tableland, are also in the region.

Mr Crook said there has been interest in harvesting sunken timbers from Tinaroo Dam in the past, but have not eventuated into action.

“It is the logistics of getting all the machinery up there and working, the question of how much timber is there and how much we can recover,” he said.

“We can only go down to 26 metres, so you have restrictions around that.

“You have to also work in the fact that Tinaroo is a popular fishing dam, and it has got lots of stakeholders and landholders that surround it, so you have to work through those processes as well.”

Hydrowood would need to do an Environmental Impact Statement and apply for a license through the Queensland Government before it could operate on the dam.