Flooding in Limestone Street, Ipswich, last month.
Flooding in Limestone Street, Ipswich, last month. Sarah Harvey

Expert calls for dam release

WATER levels at the Wivenhoe Dam should be lowered immediately, with the risk of more flooding outweighing the potential for drought, according to an expert.

Andrew Dragun, an adjunct professor for Griffith University’s Australian Rivers Institute, said it was difficult to understand the lack of action on lowering dam levels.

Mr Dragun said it was frustrating for the people of Ipswich and other recently flood-affected areas that similar action was also not taken before last month’s flood disaster.

With dams across the region at capacity, he said the risk of going back to drought conditions was unlikely for the next five years.

On the other hand, Mr Dragun said this month there were a number of high risk factors that could lead to floods.

Some of those factors include:

A high risk of cyclones, rain and flooding.

A high risk of sea surge with coastal cyclones.

A high risk of king tides.

He said those factors should lead to dam operators lowering water levels and he could not understand why it hadn’t happened already.

“It’s the question we are all asking,” Mr Dragun said.

Earlier this week, Seqwater said releasing water below the current 100 per cent water level – the full drinking water capacity – was being considered.

A spokesperson said they were undertaking “robust modelling” of a number of flood mitigation options ahead of any future major rainfall events in the region.

“The options will examine a range of potential contingencies and what impact they have, if any, on improving the flood mitigation performance of Wivenhoe Dam before a flood event is declared,” the spokesperson said.

“The contingency options are being subjected to complex modelling and include release flow rates and release timing as well as starting flood event releases at a lower level than full supply.”

Mr Dragun said February was historically the wettest month of the year for Queensland, with more floods in the month of January since 1840.

He said the dam release takes about 36 hours to get to Brisbane and out to sea, meaning releases have to be taken days in advance of upcoming storms.

Premier Anna Bligh’s office was contacted for comment, but a spokesperson pointed to past statements she had made on the issue of the dam’s operation.

She had previously stated that a judicial review would take place to investigate the flood disaster, including the actions of the Wivenhoe Dam operators.

“There are some very specific questions that I’ve tasked the inquiry to examine, and I want them to examine it forensically and comprehensively, and that is everything to do with the operation of the Wivenhoe Dam,” she said.

“If there’s anything that we can learn about doing it differently, then we’ll certainly take on those lessons.”

She said the people who operated the dam did everything they could to operate it in accordance with requirements.

“But if the requirements need reviewing, then I think everybody, as I said, has an open mind,” she said.

The Seqwater grid manager team that operates the dam did not respond to The Queensland Times before deadline, but previously said an inquest into the flooding disaster meant they legally could not comment on questions about the dam’s operations.

The inquiry will have the full powers of a royal commission and will provide a final report in 12 months’ time.

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