Safety assured after Paradise Dam remediation

Paradise Dam: Risk of failure reduced but long-term future in doubt

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Paradise Dam is approximately 20km north west of Biggenden and 80km south west of Bundaberg. Picture: Sunwater

Paradise Dam is approximately 20km north west of Biggenden and 80km south west of Bundaberg. Picture: Sunwater

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With the finalisation of remediation work, the risk of Paradise Dam failure has been reduced to a 1 in 5000-year event.

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A significant milestone has been reached on work at Paradise Dam near Bundaberg to improve the safety of downstream communities.

Sunwater has announced the completion of the dam's spillway, strengthening the structure and reducing the risk of dam failure.

An independent review into the root cause of Paradise Dam's structural and stability issues in May last year found the dam's primary spillway apron width to be 'completely inadequate'.

Related: Commission of Inquiry's Paradise Dam report released by Qld government

A 600mm concrete crest has been constructed on the dam wall, finalising a 5.8m lowering, with passive steel anchors successfully installed through the dam's roller compacted concrete layers.

A Sunwater spokesperson said decisions in relation to Paradise Dam have been about protecting both lives and livelihoods.

"The essential works, which have reduced pressure on the dam wall in a significant flood event, are a short-term risk reduction measure while a longer-term dam remediation plan is confirmed," the spokesperson said.

"With the completion of work on the dam spillway, the risk of dam failure has been reduced to a 1 in 5000-year event.

"Prior to the start of the essential works, the dam failure risk was 1 in 200-year event, such as the community experienced in 2013.

"The Paradise Dam Emergency Action Plan will be amended in consultation with the local disaster management groups."

There were three key issues that could result in Paradise Dam's failure, as shown in this figure. Image: Sunwater

There were three key issues that could result in Paradise Dam's failure, as shown in this figure. Image: Sunwater

Further ancillary works will continue through 2021, including quality assurance work, construction of a new fishway and concreting downstream of the dam to provide interim protection against scour.

"Sunwater would like to thank the Bundaberg community for its patience throughout the process," the spokesperson said.

"Sunwater understands the importance of water security certainty to the Bundaberg region and is doing all it can to ensure there is as much water available as possible for irrigators and the community."

Sunwater said no final decision about the height of the dam has been made.

"An options report and recommendation will be provided to the Queensland government, which is expected to make a decision about the long-term future of Paradise Dam by the end of 2021," the spokesperson said.

"A range of activities currently underway - including roller compacted concrete testing, anchor trials, geotechnical, hydrology and water demand studies - will inform the assessment of the options for Paradise Dam.

"Sunwater is gathering as much information as possible to confidently inform the report and recommendation."

"We need to ensure we get the best outcome for the future of the dam and the community and customers. The decision can't be rushed."

Going ahead with the class action

Bundaberg macadamia grower Michael McMahon backs the class action against the government. Picture: Greg McMahon

Bundaberg macadamia grower Michael McMahon backs the class action against the government. Picture: Greg McMahon

WIDE BAY farmers and business owners have raised more than $1 million to fund a class action against the Queensland government and Sunwater.

That result came three weeks after the class action over the remediation of Paradise Dam was ramped up, after revelations farmers in the Bundaberg region could be facing historically low water allocations before July.

The troubled dam has been in the headlines since September 2019 when Sunwater announced it would be releasing 100,000ML from the dam, in order to lower the wall of the dam due to safety concerns.

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