Deniliquin Pastoral Times
The NSW State Emergency Service is stockpiling ‘‘hundreds of thousands of sandbags’’ in preparation for potential flooding this year, with current conditions ‘‘most comparable to that of 2016’’.
Pre-releases of water from the Burrinjuck and Blowering dams resulted in minor flooding along the Murrumbidgee and Tumut rivers at the weekend, where catchments were already saturated.
Minor flooding occurred along the Murrumbidgee River at Darlington Point. It reached 5.72 metres, 0.32 metres above capacity, and water levels were yesterday listed as steady.
Minor flooding is generally considered an inconvenience and will at worst result in road closures along the river.
But SES’ southern zone Deputy Commander Barry Griffiths has advised residents along the river to ‘‘prepare whilst you can’’.
‘‘Anyone with property or livestock close to the water, should move their animals and equipment to higher ground,’’ he said.
‘‘We’re looking at a season with above average rainfall and flooding is possible, there may not be time to prepare later.’’
The Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) predicts modest rainfall this week, which is unlikely to impact flood levels. But ‘above average’ rainfall is predicted in coming months.
The Hume Dam — currently exceeding 80 per cent capacity — will also be subject to ‘modest pre-releases’ this month.
It’s a scenario Mr Griffiths says, ‘‘is most comparable to that of 2016’’.
‘‘That’s the fairest and closest comparison, however, it could still go either way.’’
In 2016 Deniliquin’s Edward River peaked at 8.62 metres on October 17 and the Murray River at Tocumwal peaked at 7.37m. Both were above major flood level. The resulting flood wrought millions of dollars in damages to both farms and community infrastructure, much of which still hasn’t been recovered by landholders.
Landowners overwhelmingly blame the ‘mismanagement’ of the Hume Dam for the ‘man-made’ drought, and the 2016 floods.
They fear another damaging flood this year, as a result of the same flawed approach.
Increasing general water security allocations for farmers, which increased from 10 per cent to 16 per cent of entitlement last week, could take the pressure of the dam.
The decision would not only avoid a spill, but also increase food and fibre production in the Murray Valley.
The SES has been approached by the Murray Darling Basin Authority to minimise the effect of the Hume Dam’s forecasted pre-release later this month.
However, since being contacted by the Authority last Monday, no further information — including the date or scale of the intended pre-release — has been made available to NSW SES.
‘‘There’s already a lot of stress in the community,’’ Mr Griffiths said.
‘‘So, time permitting, which it currently is, we will be engaging one-on-one with at-risk communities about how best to prepare. Our strategy is to work with the community in preparing fast and early.’’