HISTORY buffs are hopeful the abandoned Duck Reach power station will be reborn as a major tourism and education centre.
The historic site on the South Esk River upstream from the First Basin has not produced hydro-electric power for decades, but that could soon change.
Hydro Tasmania and Launceston City Council are close to reaching an agreement on reopening Duck Reach.
As part of a long-term deal, Hydro will have to supply a minimum base flow of 2.5 cumecs of water into the Cataract Gorge, above the legislatively-required 0.4 cumecs.
The council believes this provision will be enough to supply power to 2500 homes.
Council general manager Robert Dobrzynski said yesterday that negotiations with Hydro Tasmania were continuing.
``Clearly, surety of water supply is critical to the proposal of redeveloping Duck Reach,'' he said.
``We are hopeful our negotiations will result in a positive outcome.''
It is understood the council is also moving towards calling for expressions of interest for refurbishing the site, meaning it could open next year.
Duck Reach Historical Group chairman Shane Dennington said his group wanted to build an interpretation centre in the station with fun and interactive displays. He said the centre would fit in the existing building as modern turbines were smaller than the 1895-era original equipment.
Mr Dennington said the centre could be a major tourist attraction and resource for schools, as Duck Reach had a proud but largely forgotten past. It was the first publicly owned hydro-electric plant in the southern hemisphere, providing power from its construction in 1895 to closure in 1955.
An 850-metre tunnel drilled through the rock supplied water to the station.
Mr Dennington said the interpretation centre would allow visitors to compare the modern operating turbines with the old turbines.