Regional Experiences - 2022 Floods


                                   

 

Exploring the impact on communities, and the lessons learnt from the 2022 Floods the MDA's Regions have come together to acknowledge, note, and share the varied experiences and stories from across the Murray-Darling Basin.

 

 

Region 1

Chair: Cr David Thurley OAM

AlburyCity Council

Region 1 has not suffered significant damage to homes and property in the way that other regions across the Basin have. That said, there has been significant flooding in and around Albury, Corowa, Howlong, Yarrawonga and further downstream. 

Dartmouth Dam began to spill in the last week of September and at the same time Hume Dam was in the high 90% range which necessitated releases to try to preserve some air space. Frequent intense storm events occurred during October and November and releases were at or above 50,000 ML/day for a significant period. Maximum releases of 95,000 ML/day occurred for a short period. This caused localised flooding in the area of Doctor’s Point and South Albury. The Noreuil Park area was underwater for more than 12 weeks and has just re-opened after a major clean up by Council staff.

Albury’s road infrastructure has not suffered the same level of damage as other regional and rural roads in the area but a significant amount of pothole patching has occurred over the last 3 months.

Regional 1 has made a submission to the MDBA requesting a review of the operating rules for Hume Dam and asked that the level of Dartmouth Dam and the BOM reports of La Nina events be factored into the operating rules. It should be noted that Dartmouth has not filled during the time in which the Basin Plan has been in force until this year.

Region 2

Chair: Cr Geoff Dobson

Greater Shepparton City Council

Firstly, I acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the lands within the Region 2 network. In the previous 6 months, the landscape throughout the Murray Darling Basin has certainly changed.

Unprecedented flooding has been a feature throughout the Basin and continues to this day and The Goulburn River with outfalls from Lake Eildon has not been spared.

Greater Shepparton City Council will be inviting the management of Goulburn Murray Water to present to council on the potential of improved management of water storage systems under an increasingly variable climate and a higher likelihood of more extreme flood events due to climate change and I will report om that at a later date.

In Region 2, The Murray and Goulburn systems have certainly affected our Municipalities which has lead all Local Government Agencies with social and economic distress.

As Chair of Region 2 I recently attended a meeting with Mark and the CEO of Greater Shepparton to discuss the role of the CSIRO and the Circular Economy on the Murray Darling Basin and in Particular the effects on the Goulburn System.

In addition, I attended the Murray Darling Basin Authority Operations update in Mildura from 31 May to 2 June wherein I was able to discuss our opposition to further release of 450 gls from the consumptive pool of irrigation water for environmental purposes.

Region 2 attended The Annual Conference included a study tour of the Dartmouth Dam, a few days prior to it spilling and to the Hume Reservoir, which was increasing its output in readiness for the forthcoming water intakes from the Mitta Mitta River and various tributaries.

The conference was very well attended and included presentations from Minister Plibersek, the Hon. Sam Birrell from the seat of Nicholls and various other presenters. A summary of the event was presented at the recent Board meeting, which showed wide acceptance by attendees and a financial gain for the Association. Next year’s event will be held in Murray Bridge.

Finally, at the recent AGM of Region 2 AGM, our guest speaker was Andrew Reynolds, Chief Operations Manager of MDBA. His very thorough knowledge of the river systems was shared with Region 2 members and Councillors from Moira Shire.

Region 2 thanks all of our colleagues and express our gratitude to CEO Mark for his attendance at all Region 2 meetings.

Region 4

Chair: Cr Jason Modica

Mildura Rural City Council

The Murray River has been steadily rising in and around the Mildura Region for 8 weeks.

Our region has had time to prepare for the flood because of the size of the Murray below the Edward/Wakool and the Murrumbidgee and the time it takes to move through the system, noting that the Flooding Darling joining the Murray at Wentworth holds the Murray flow back and increases the width of the water spreading over floodplains. The ongoing flows through the Greater Murray Darling Basin System have delivered Mildura and South Australia the Biggest Floods in 50 years.

As of 3pm 14/12/2022, The Mildura Rural City Council's Community Relief and Support Service has received 64 referrals. Of these referrals:

  • 38 were for people who had been displaced and needed accomodation support,

  • 15 required support for financial hardship,

  • 3 required business support, and

  • 2 required food support.

It is the first time since the well documented 1956 flood that Mildura and the region have received a daily flow of over 200GL. This is unique in a working River having all tributaries delivering very high end of system flows to fill the very large Mid and Lower Murray River.

The ICC and SES along with Mildura Rural City Council have been methodically building and reinforcing levies over the last month to protect houses and businesses. There have been a series of community meeting to keep all living along the edge of the river and flood plains informed. This has worked well but there is ongoing concern as the high river will stay for another 6 to 8 weeks applying wear and tear to all levies and infrastructure. All land and homeowners have worked tirelessly to protect their properties.

We have also had communication with upstream communities who have worked through flood issues and past on relevant information. This has been advantageous for our region we are appreciative and empathetic to all communities in the Basin who have dealt with the magnitude of the flooding. Mildura and the region will see around 50 homes and 15 businesses evacuated, the flood is expected to peak at 38.4 AHD this week, just a tick over 200GL.

Mildura is arguably Australia’s first irrigation colony, and the town was built on high land, this gives Mildura, Merbein, and Red Cliffs great security from big rivers, it also has a secondary benefit. We can safely view the encroaching floods from Riverfronts and high lookouts. The increase in local Flood tourism has been huge with many locals coming to see the event and talk about previous floods and their memories of them. We have had many businesses receive cancellations because of the state-wide evacuation messaging, which I acknowledge is important and necessary. This is something we could address as flooding is regional and specific to the geography/topography of the land. It’s hard to balance considered sensibly flood warnings and inform the broader community that not every business and home is in immediate danger, with how to communicate that we are still open for business in difficult circumstances.

Thanks to all who have worked through the ongoing flooding and all MDA members who have submitted reports. It is important to hear how other regions deal with these issues to understand the different viewpoints within Murray Darling Basin.

Region 5

Chair: Cr Andrew Kassebaum

Berri-Barmera Council

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Region 6

Chair: Melissa Rebbeck

Alexandrina Council.

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Region 7

Chair: Cr Andrew Tilley

City of Mitcham

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Region 9

Chair: Cr Glen Andreazza

Griffith City Council

The Murrumbidgee and Tributaries as well as other waterways in Region 9 have all been under constant pressure from the above normal weather events and massive flows heading west and consequently various impacts have been felt by Councils and communities.
At the Region 9 meeting on 24 November 2022members discussed the Agenda item ‘Inundation and impacts on our area’. In summary the Members provided the following points as observations and items that require address:
  • How we quantify the productive impact will tell the tale of how significant the inundation has been.
  • Growth of Crops and Vegetation is masking the real view of the water that lies in the region.
  • Infrastructure e.g roads, bridges, culverts, table drains, properties, houses, filtration systems have all been stressed or affected.
  • Road network affected will impact the current and upcoming harvest/produce movements.
  • Reports have been that Landowners have cut their property levee banks which has channelled water inappropriately onto other landowner’s properties or roadways.
  • It is noted that overtime the topography of the land has significantly changed.
  • There is no comparison to previous flood events as the amount of water moving during the 1956 and 2012 events was slow moving and yet now there are areas that previously did not receive water inundation.
  • Further Observations :
    • Major flooding to north of Darlington Point
    • Agricultural area of the Coleambally Irrigation area is greatly impacted.
    • Billabong and Wongamil Creeks have significant water flows and over land impact and this is felt from Balldale to Conargo.
    • Roadways significantly impacted by inappropriate channelled water include Conargo South, Coree, Kidman Way and Donald Ross Drive.
    • Major flooding at Lake Wyangan, where there was a North and South Lake system there is currently one large body of water.
    • Murrumbidgee, Leeton and Griffith Members reported that many roads both bitumen and unsealed are affected and repair costs are expected to be substantial.
    • Council staff/services from the Region 9 Councils have worked around the clock to support the communities and infrastructure through this difficult time.

Region 10

Chair: Mayor Phyllis Miller

Forbes Shire Council

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Region 10A

Chair: Mayor Craig Davies

Narromine Shire Council

The Macquarie -Castlereagh system has largely missed the floods due to both good luck and good management. Good luck in that the Castlereagh largely flows underground and we have missed significant rainfall events at critical moments.

The Macquarie River has flooded significantly downstream from the Gin Gin bridge. Some flows upstream have occurred, and overland flows have escaped the river between Gin Gin and Narromine although generally only for a few days. The downstream flooding has caused major floods for communities such as Warren with literally hundreds of thousands of hectares under water for over six months. The river is shaped like a bugle with the big end being the upstream section that allows significant in river flows but diminishes as it heads downstream. At Narromine the river will hold a flow of 180 gigs but that halves over the course of the next 45 kms and is only a third of this new capacity a further 25 kms downstream. This is at Warren weir where a flow of 32 gigs will cause major flooding. A further distance of 40 kms at Marebone weir has flooding at flows of as little as 5 gigs.

What has saved both the town of Narromine (pop 4000) is the operation of Burrendong dam and the flood mitigation zone. Burrendong has a false full stage that is called 100% but in reality, it will fill to 161%. All over the 100% mark is flood mitigation . This year Narromine would have flooded twice , both significantly with complete evacuations except for the dam which has been managed at between 110% and 149 %. DPI Water have done an amazing job of keeping the town safe knowing that Dubbo (pop 45,000) will also suffer a similar fate should we get a really big flow.

The Bogan River on the southern end of Narromine Shire has been a more persistent issue with flooding although less reported. It has been in almost constant flooding for the past two years and over 100,000 ha have been subjected to severe flooding. We have roads we haven’t seen for many months and believe our repair costs could exceed $50 mill.

We feel very fortunate that we have not had the massive floods experienced by the likes of Forbes , Gunnedah and so many other rural and regional locations.  The outcome for me is that it highlights exactly what a dam can do for flood mitigation. Moving 4000 people out of a flood zone when surrounded by water is a daunting prospect and if for no other reason than flood mitigation, I see dams as an essential part of our infrastructure landscape.

Our Flood Mitigation Advisory committee have also agreed to allow the dam to be maintained at 113% into the future (yet to be ratified ) as a means of supplying more water to all licence holders after the floods have abated. Irrigators get their share as does the environment and it’s a win win situation for all users and highlights that with goodwill common sense decisions can be made for the benefit of all within the system.

I hope that our Murray River friends, and the SA end of the system avoids as much of the impact as possible but recognise there is an overwhelming amount of water heading downstream. Let’s hope it flattens out and arrives over months rather than weeks.

Region 11

Chair: Mayor Jamie Chaffey

Gunnedah Shire Council

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Region 12

Chair: Mayor Samantha O'Toole

Balonne Shire Council

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