Renewed call to pause Paradise Dam lowering as tenders close
THE one thing everyone agrees on when it comes to Paradise Dam is safety.
The multimillion-dollar question is to find the best way to make the dam safe, without jeopardising water security and community safety.
While the State Government remains resolute on its decision to lower the dam, local agricultural stakeholders and politicians are hoping the report of Dr Paul Rizzo, an international expert on safety evaluation and rehabilitation of dams, will provide an alternative solution.
There is renewed urgency surrounding the issue following news yesterday that tenders for lowering the dam's spillway had closed and contractors had been short-listed.
This week Dr Rizzo has been in Bundaberg on a fact-finding mission to visit Paradise Dam and meet with growers, Sunwater and other stakeholders as part of a study commissioned by Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers into the future options for the dam.
BFVG managing director Bree Grima said that, while Dr Rizzo was still in the fact-finding stage of his examination, based on a visit to the dam and the reports Sunwater had publicly released, he considered Paradise Dam to be repairable and there to be a several safe and economic options available to repair this type of dam that did not involve any reduction to the height of the dam wall.
In September it was announced that the dam spillway would be reduced by 5m to preserve its structural integrity.
Paradise Dam, a roller-compacted concrete dam, was constructed in 2005 with the capacity of 300,000ML.
But it was damaged in the devastating 2013 floods when the dam's highest capacity was recorded at 232.38 per cent.
The Paradise Dam Preparedness Review found that more than 100 people could be at risk if the dam failed in the event of a "substantial" flood, like 2013.
"The current strength of the Paradise Dam spillway is calculated to be well below safety guidelines, and the life safety risk is also calculated to be well above the guidelines' limit for what society is expected to tolerate if there was a failure," its report read.
Natural Resources Minister Anthony Lynham said Sunwater and the government's primary concern was community safety.
"The dam is safe now," he said.
"However, the publicly available independent technical reports confirm potential risk of major flooding if there is another an extreme weather event like 2013.
"Sunwater is acting on the advice of these independent technical reports and will not be delaying the essential works that are to be undertaken on Paradise Dam."
Dr Lynham said tenders were closed and Sunwater had short-listed candidates for the dam works.
"Sunwater's advice is that reducing the volume of water in the dam reduces pressure on the dam wall and creates additional time for the dam to fill in an extreme weather event, and extra time for any evacuations," he said.
"Sunwater is also investigating alternative water supply options, especially for irrigators.
"Building Queensland continues to examine long-term options."
Ms Grima said the grower meeting yesterday had about 120 growers and industry representatives present.
"Dr Rizzo spoke of his experience in remediating dams that continued to supply industry with the same volume of water and most importantly ensured the safety of downstream communities," she said.
"Dr Rizzo has worked on many dams around the world and was part of a Queensland Dam Consortium alliance that built Wyaralong Dam in 2010 which provides potable water for the Scenic Rim Region.
"We have requested access to additional reports which will assist Dr Rizzo in forming an independent fact-based view of the engineering options for Paradise Dam which will be shared with Sunwater and State Government along with the economic impact analysis report to ensure that any decision about the future of Paradise Dam is based on the facts."
Ms Grima said decisions about on Paradise Dam needed to keep the community safe and for the dam to remain at full capacity.
"We need Paradise Dam to remain at full capacity to support future growth and economic development of this thriving regional community," she said.
Burnett MP Stephen Bennett said every other possible option should be looked before lowering the dam.
He said water security was the number one priority for the region and farmers.
"Based on preliminary discussions with an internationally renowned geotechnical and civil engineering expert, Paradise Dam is reparable," he said.
"This means there should be an immediate cease of any conversations about starting to destroy our water infrastructure.
"It is absolutely disgraceful that the Palaszczuk Government is still moving forward with their plans to chop five metres off the top of the dam wall.
"We should be looking at every other possible option before such destructive measures discussed."
Bundaberg Mayor Jack Dempsey urged the state to not to select a tender until the independent report had been considered.
"Water security is vitally significant to the Bundaberg region's economic prosperity.
"Current and future investments are inextricably linked to the reliability of water supply," he said.
"It will benefit the Bundaberg region and Queensland taxpayers if there's a viable option to safely retain the dam wall at its current height."
The Commission of Inquiry into Paradise Dam hearing dates have been announced with the first one to be held in Brisbane on February 20.
The Bundaberg hearing will be held from March 3-6 at the Bundaberg Courthouse.
The public can attend proceedings, which will also be live streamed.
Mr Bennett said he was disappointed the commission would sit for 11 days in Brisbane but only for four in Bundaberg.
"While I encourage as many people as possible to attend the hearing dates in Bundaberg and make their voices heard, the dam needs to be fixed," he said.
"There is no other option."
If you plan to attend, email email@example.com to register your interest to assist the commission in planning seating numbers (seating cannot be guaranteed).