Gunns wants dam works

Timber company Gunns has applied to build three stormwater ponds for its Tamar Valley pulp mill as a cloud hangs over the legal status of the $2.3 billion project.

Gunns lodged the applications to carry out dam works on September 1, a day after the original permit expired.

The Assessment Committee for Dam Construction advertised the application at the weekend and will make a decision following a two- week public consultation period.

The Environment Protection Authority is due to hand down its ruling on the validity of the pulp mill construction permit this week.

Last week Gunns submitted evidence to the EPA to try to show that it had met a permit condition requiring "substantial commencement" on the pulp mill by the end of August.

EPA director Alex Schaap said the dam permit applications would have no bearing on his decision.

Greens forestry spokesman Kim Booth accused Gunns of acting prematurely and called for the dam permit assessment to be placed on hold until the legal questions about the mill were cleared up.

"I am concerned that the department has begun a process of public consultation for a project whose legal status is still unknown," Mr Booth said.

The Greens have released legal advice stating that the company should have applied to renew the original dam permits one month before they expired in August.

But Water and Marine Resources general manager Wes Ford said the Crown had determined the committee was able to assess any applications lodged by Gunns under the Water Management Act.

Gunns is continuing construction works and says it has a valid permit.

A Gunns spokesman confirmed that the company had reapplied for the 15 megalitre, nine-megalitre and three-megalitre dams "to clear up some conjecture".

The company is yet to respond to a second compensation offer from the state government made on Friday night.

Liberal forestry spokesman Peter Gutwein said the compensation offer had highlighted a split between the Greens' federal and state members.

Australian Greens leader Bob Brown has urged Prime Minister Julia Gillard to stop public money being used to settle a commercial dispute between Gunns and Forestry Tasmania, in contrast to state Greens support for compensating Gunns. "If the Greens can't even agree among themselves, then what future does the forestry deal have?" Mr Gutwein said.

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