Blame game on dam

Townsville Bulletin - - National Snapshot -

THE Queens­land Gov­ern­ment says an in­quiry will de­ter­mine if the op­er­a­tors of Wiven­hoe dam con­trib­uted to Bris­bane’s Jan­uary floods, af­ter Se­qWa­ter blamed weather fore­cast­ers.

The gov­ern­ment has re­leased Seq Wa­ter’s self-ex­am­i­na­tion of its op­er­a­tion of Wiven­hoe and Som­er­set dams in the days lead­ing up to the city’s dev­as­tat­ing floods.

A com­mis­sion of in­quiry is look­ing at whether dam re­leases in the days lead­ing up to the floods ex­ac­er­bated the scale of the disas­ter, and if more wa­ter should have been re­leased sooner.

In its re­port, to be con­sid­ered by the in­quiry , Se­qWa­ter said it op­er­ated Wiven­hoe i n ac­cor­dance with the man­ual that ap­plies dur­ing f l ood events and pointed to in­ac­cu­rate weather fore­casts.

It said six out of eight three­day fore­casts be­tween Jan­uary 6 and Jan­uary 9 dra­mat­i­cally un­der­es­ti­mated rain­fall.

‘ ‘ These un­der­est i mated rain­fall fore­casts did not sup­port an in­crease in flood re­leases above that un­der­taken,’’ says the 1180-page re­port.

Se­qWa­ter said that with hind­sight, three and five-day fore­casts were merely an in­di­ca­tion of fu­ture rain­fall.

‘‘ And these fore­casts can­not be used as a ba­sis of flood op­er­a­tions’ de­ci­sion-mak­ing where pub­lic safety in both ru­ral and ur­ban ar­eas is di­rectly im­pacted,’’ it said.

How­ever, it said the dam mit­i­gated the im­pact of the ‘‘ very large and rare’’ flood.

With­out it, wa­ter would have been two me­tres higher than it was at the CBD’s Port Of­fice gauge, it said.

Depart­ment of En­vi­ron­ment and Re­source Man­age- Ques­tions have been asked about wa­ter re­leased from

Wiven­hoe Dam ment Di­rec­tor-Gen­eral John Bradley, the reg­u­la­tor of dam safety, said peo­ple could draw their own con­clu­sions from the re­port.

It was up to the in­quiry to de­ter­mine if more wa­ter should have been re­leased ear­lier, and whether the man­ual that gov­erns dam op­er­a­tions needs re­vi­sion, he said.

‘‘ When Se­qWa­ter was re­leas­ing those very large vol­umes then, its en­gi­neers were op­er­at­ing un­der a man­ual that was try­ing to avoid any risk of dam fail­ure,’’ Mr Bradley said.

‘‘ If you have dam fail­ure, t hen f or t he com­mu­nity down­stream of the dam we can have cat­a­strophic dam­age and lives lost.’’

He said the op­er­at­ing man­ual was last up­dated in 2009, and Se­qWa­ter had iden­ti­fied five ar­eas where changes might be jus­ti­fied, al­though more anal­y­sis was needed.

Op­po­si­tion nat­u­ral re-sourcesspokesman Jeff Seeney said the re­port re­in­forced the view that dam re­leases were ‘‘ grossly in­ad­e­quate’’ and it was ‘‘ very ob­vi­ous’’ that more wa­ter should have been re­leased ear­lier.

‘‘ The ques­tion is why they didn’t.’’

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