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March 21, 2021

MEDIA RELEASE: 'Raising Warragamba Dam won’t stop flooding': former Emergency Services Minister

In an event that has recurred over centuries, a very serious flood is disrupting communities, again placing people and property in peril across the Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley.

State and Local Governments have continued to allow urban development in flood-prone areas and that is why we are in the position we find ourselves in again today.

If this flood event tells us anything, it should tell us that further residential development on the flood plain is dangerous and shortsighted, especially because it can be expected that flood events are likely to get more extreme in the future due to climate change.

Former Emergency Services Minister and Colong Foundation Chair, Bob Debus, said that it was dangerously misleading to suggest that floods can be stopped by raising the Warragamba Dam wall.

“It is very important to remember that it is not possible for Warragamba Dam, whatever its size, to stop the most extreme floods. Leaked charts published in the Sydney Morning Herald have shown that raising the wall would have only a moderate effect even in a 1 in 500 year flood event. 

“I take it to be very significant that the Australian insurance industry has now withdrawn their support for the Dam wall raising as the critical element in flood management and mitigation in the Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley.  

“Moreover while we are debating raising the Warragamba dam wall, other obvious and immediate flood management actions are going begging.

“Very little has been done in recent years to improve evacuation routes for people on the floodplain despite requests from Local Governments. Plenty of evacuation roads can be cut by quite minor flooding at present.

“But above all I can’t help but agree with Emergency Services Minister David Elliott when he pleaded with his colleagues Stuart Ayres and Melinda Pavey to preemptively release water from the dam last year. We all knew that big rain events were likely at this time in our seasonal cycle.

“Preemptive release before floods arrive is something that is done with other dams, but is ignored here because of domestic political agendas.

“There are no silver bullet solutions, but after all lowering the reservoir level by 10 meters has a similar effect to raising the wall by 10 metres and it doesn't cost $1.6 billion.

“Regardless, plenty of flooding in the Valley has nothing to do with Warragamba at all.

As the Premier correctly said today, 'you have to look beyond the dam, it's all the rivers'. Warragamba Dam is not on the Nepean or Grose Rivers or South Creek, all of which would be flooding now irrespective of the water flowing over Warragamba Dam wall.

“In the prospectus for raising the Warragamba Dam wall, Infrastructure NSW has stated they plan to place an additional 134,000 people on the Hawkesbury-Nepean floodplain in the coming decades. But those people would not be safe from flood events, even if they were lulled into believing so.

“In this sense the raising of the Dam wall would actually increase the risk to life and property into the future.”

Media contact:

Harry Burkitt

0490 010 909

[email protected]

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