Dam operators ‘inadequately’ trained: engineer

 

A DAM engineering expert has claimed the Ross River Dam would have prevented Townsville from flooding if its spillway gates had been operated professionally.

Townsville City Council owns the dam, however SunWater - a State Government-owned corporation - is contracted to operate it.

In sensational claims late yesterday, a SunWater spokeswoman told The Courier-Mail the dam was not declared as flood mitigation infrastructure and the organisation was "not required to provide flood-mitigation advice".

This is despite numerous government departments claiming the dam was built in 1971 specifically for flood mitigation.

 

Water released from Ross River Dam inundated large parts of Townsville. Picture: Zak Simmonds
Water released from Ross River Dam inundated large parts of Townsville. Picture: Zak Simmonds

"Ross River Dam is a water supply dam and although it has some ability to attenuate flooding, it has not been declared under the Water Supply Safety and Reliability Act 2008 as a flood mitigation dam," the spokeswoman said.

"Under regulated operating models, a water supply dam has no approved process to guide the safe release of water for flood mitigation purposes.

"Sunwater is not required to provide flood mitigation advice or advisory services in relation to flood mitigation and does not have the required insurances to provide this advice."

The Bureau of Meteorology website says the dam was constructed for "flood mitigation and water storage", and the Department of Environment and Science's website says it was "designed for flood mitigation."

SunWater's startling claims come after Ken Pearce, who worked as a contractor for the Queensland Water Commission, said the dam operators were "inadequately" trained.

 

The clean up continues in Hermit Park after the Townsville floods.
The clean up continues in Hermit Park after the Townsville floods.

 

In a letter emailed to Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Townsville Mayor Jenny Hill, Mr Pearce said he was qualified to comment as he had more than 30 years of dam engineering experience and was one of the engineers responsible for the design of the Wivenhoe Dam facility.

"(The) Ross River Dam was designed to protect the city of Townsville from floods far in excess of recent flooding and that the dam would have protected the community if the gates had been professionally operated," he wrote.

SunWater said it was contracted to operate the Ross River Dam in accordance with agreed operational procedures and an Emergency Action Plan, unless otherwise directed by the council.

"Flood mitigation dams typically include a dedicated flood storage compartment and require an approved flood mitigation manual that stipulates the timing and size of releases and gate mechanisms to safely regulate flood waters," the spokeswoman said.

"Water supply dams are not designed for this purpose.

"We are confident that we have met our dam safety and operational obligations and responded to all directions under the contract with Townsville City Council."

The Government last week asked the Inspector-General for Emergency Management to review the recent monsoon rainfall and floods. Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington questioned Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk in Parliament about SunWater's responsibilities.



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