The Fairbairn Dam overflows with the floodwater of Central Queensland this week. Photo Contributed
The Fairbairn Dam overflows with the floodwater of Central Queensland this week. Photo Contributed Contributed

Dam options explored by Emerald residents

WE could be dammed if we do, but damned if we don't explore options for expanding the water storage capacity upstream of Emerald.

Central Highlands councillors Gail Godwin-Smith and Kevin Pickersgill have joined forces to call on the State Government to fast-track investigation of another dam above the Fairbairn Dam and water diversion options in parallel with the council's development of levees for the town.

Cr Godwin-Smith said water security for the Central Highlands married well with Premier Campbell Newman's vision of a population shift to rural and regional zones, and presented a prime opportunity for private enterprise investment.

"The main point we want to get across to the community is we are going to actively pursue that conversation with the State Government," Cr Godwin-Smith said.


"And I believe the government has a huge responsibility in terms of looking at how this investment in levees backs up against in, and around and upstream of the Fairbairn Dam.

"I think the council is on the right track in having come up with priority (levee) options... for in and around the Emerald township, and with the help of the community, we are definitely on track to do that.

"The one thing that has come out really strongly in my time on council and further through the (levee options) community consultation is the feeling that perhaps an investment in long-term water security for Emerald could bring great economic prosperity.

"It is a very futuristic and visionary way of looking at securing the Central Highlands and provides the opportunity to support the agriculture and resources industries perhaps out to the Galilee Basin.

"Water is the only thing that will underpin growth into the future."


Cr Pickersgill said the future of levees in Emerald couldn't be firmed up until a geotechnical study determined whether the ground in the proposed areas was suitable.

He said it was important every option was explored to mitigate against future floods in Emerald.

"I have always been a strong advocate of the big picture stuff, and if we can get the State Government to look at an upstream dam and diversion channels, the government ends up with more water to sell," Cr Pickersgill said.

"I think that would future-proof the area.

"If we want the region to grow we will need more water at some time, and if we can solve the downstream flooding in Emerald, that will be a real bonus."


Gerald Mayne - "it will not work". 

"LET'S be honest - this wall arrangement won't work - tunnel vision is a dangerous, costly way of life."

These are the thoughts of retiree Gerald Mayne after seeing the four levee options for flood-proofing Emerald.

Mr Mayne, who fortified his own home with a concrete moat after the 2010-11 flood, is an advocate of a second dam upstream of the Fairbairn Dam.

Not only could it mitigate the effects of floodwaters from the Nogoa River catchment on the town, but it would drought-proof the shire and be a money- making venture, he said.

And to part-finance the proposal, Mr Mayne wants to charge every flood-affected Emerald household $1000 a year - "to encourage them to shift to higher ground".


"A dam up near Tresswell school or Telemon Emu Plains to start with, would allow the Fairbairn to cope with local overflows," Mr Mayne wrote.

"The advantages are more flood irrigation upstream from the Fairbairn - SunWater could make a fortune from it - as well as drought-proofing this shire.

"It would be security water for the mines - present and future - as well as the proposed Alpha ones.

"The mines who will benefit from a secure water supply should pre-pay some capital costs, to be repaid in future years on the water they use.

"If Moranbah can get a pipeline from the Burdekin dam to service that area, why can't we get a pipeline to Alpha to service the future expansion from the Fairbairn?

"Remember, we want to make money from floods, not wave the water goodbye."


Mr Mayne does not support diverting water from the Fairbairn Dam through Sandhurst Creek.

He questioned how much insurance companies would drop prices if levees were installed.



INSURANCE premiums could come down about 30% if flood prevention measures are successfully completed around Emerald.

An Insurance Council of Australia spokesperson said in other areas where mitigation had been completed, insurers responded by "sharply reducing" the cost of new home and contents policies.

"Suncorp announced an average $400 reduction in Charleville," the spokesperson said.

"In Roma, an average 30% reduction in premium is expected following the construction of stage one of the town's levee.

"The ICA is pleased the Central Highlands Regional Council is exploring measures to lower the risk of catastrophic flood in Emerald."

Any steps taken by local governments to construct permanent mitigation for their communities were to be encouraged, the spokesperson said, adding the ICA was keen to review the local flood mitigation options and the impact these could have on flood insurance.


Larry Daniels 

RECENTLY I was very politely and informatively shown through the various levee bank options for flood mitigation for Emerald.

I do not think levee banks for Emerald are a well-thought-out idea.

To me it appears to be a knee-jerk reaction hell-bent on being seen to be doing something to appease a worried populace demanding action, and to lay claim to some possible future funding.

In my 37 years of living on a property that is over 80% inundated in any big flood event, I have observed the following long-known quirks of nature on a floodplain to be true.

That the anabranch that is further from the main stream is generally the deepest and first anabranch to flood. I think Emerald has, over the years, basically overlooked this phenomenon.

Often, in many places, the highest ground is adjacent to the main stream.

Water takes the path of least resistance.

While I am not entirely familiar with the floodwater flow in Emerald, I cannot see why it would be that much different from any other east-coast floodplain.

Any flood modelling for Emerald should definitely show all floodwater downstream from the Fairbairn Dam spillway to where the Nogoa intersects with Theresa Creek.

The extra pipes now installed under the railway embankment are still not as open as the original trestle bridge and really only start to help at the high water flow.

The water leaving the main stream near St Helens Creek, flowing past the TAFE College, and out near the intersection of Wills Rd and the Gregory Hwy, appears to be restricted by the industrial estate and forced back over the town.

I do not see how levee banks will solve the flooding issues in Emerald. Every time there is more than four inches of local rain in any 12-hour period, water would be banking up somewhere.

Also, it does not convincingly solve the problem of the floodwater flow from the western side, where it appears most of Emerald's flooding was from. If the levee banks were installed and did hold on Emerald's pervious soil, the restriction this would cause to the natural water flow would most probably raise and increase the water flow potential on the western side.

If that levee bank were to breach, then Emerald would see real flooding, and in a hurry. The opinions of the whole region need to be considered if everyone is to be expected in any way to help fund the construction.

In my opinion, it is much easier and cheaper in the long run to work with nature than against it.

Either build higher, shift to higher ground or simply stay put and take the risk.

Also, town planning could have a good look at the floodwater passage through the industrial estate and beyond.

I trust that the present councillors are strong and diversified enough to progress the region as a whole, while still safeguarding a strong regional hub.

Another dam further upstream has already been suggested.

Far enough upstream to lessen the flood peak at Emerald would be ideal.

Larry Daniels

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