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Thursday, June 21, 2007

SCA Pumping into a flooded river.

The story above was published by Robyn Murray in the Southern Highlands News of 20 June 07.
The placid Nepean River at
Douglas Park Bridge
30 March 2007.
Bridge Pier visible at right

Here is the background to the story and then a lovely denouement.
This story started on ABC 702 on Monday morning, when Sarah MacDonald interviewed Mr Ian Tanner, the Manager (Bulk Water) for the SCA. Mr Tanner was crowing about the huge amount of water that was flowing into the Warragamba Dam, and the other dams, from natural flows, and also the Shoalhaven Transfers, because the Tallowa Dam was full and overflowing. Bernard Eddy and I were speaking on the phone at the time and we both heard that conversation in the background.

Bernie rang off, and straight away rang Sarah, and was patched through just after the News, at 9:00am. He said, in an excited manner: "You ought get that &%*&% Tanner back on the line, and get him to explain why they are pumping vast quantities of water from the Shoalhaven River into an already flooded Nepean River." Something to that effect, anyway.

Bernie worked the phones that morning, and I got going with a press statement, which is pretty much what Robyn has published (above). What we did not know at the time that the story was being drafted was that there was an RTA drilling rig at Douglas Park bridges (the twin bridges on the way to Sydney which span a huge gorge on the Nepean River). That area is about 60 Km downstream from Doudle's Folly Creek and Glenquarry cut, (at Kangaloon, close to Robertson) where the published photo of the Shoalhaven Transfers at full flow was taken. But it is in the very same river system as the Douglas Park Bridge - over the Nepean River.
Twin bridges over Nepean River
at Douglas Park -
from causeway below.

The RTA are worried about the prospect of subsidence which might be caused by Longwall Mining, which is due to commence shortly in the vicinity of the bridge. So they commissioned geotechnical engineers to do a study, which involved taking core samples of the bedrock. Along came the flood, and the drilling rig got flooded, and then tilted over, as may be seen in the attached photo (below).

Meanwhile, Bernie was severely criticised by the Manager, Bulk Water for the SCA (Mr Ian Tanner) for spreading "ridiculous stories" about the SCA pumping extra water into a river which was already in flood. (Bernie was phoned by Mr Tanner, who somehow tracked down his Mobile Phone number. Was that just to make the point that he could do that?)

Mr. Tanner denied that the river was in flood, despite the fact that the Bureau of Meteorology website clearly had the Nepean River flood warning posted at the time of the phone call, and the ABC was still carrying regular warning bulletins on the radio. Unfortunately, the Flood Warning Bulletin is no longer available, but it certainly was up there as late as 11:45pm on 18 June 2007. The flooding had been going since Saturday morning 16 June 2007.
RTA drilling rig in flooded
Nepean River
Photo: Ms Robin Craig
The gem of this story is the photo (click image to enlarge it) made available by Ms Robin Craig, (typo corrected - DJW) who lives in the Nepean River area (Douglas Park or close-by). I understand that she took the photo from the top of the Douglas Park Bridge, looking down, hence the slightly unusual angle of perception. It is a wonderful photo. I understand that the RTA has since rescued the drilling rig, so, that photo could not be taken today. As photographers always say, never leave home without your camera. Well done - Robin.

I understand that Bernie could not resist the temptation to email a copy of the photo to Mr Tanner. Of course. That's Bernie for you!

The sleeper in this story is the issue of longwall mining and subsidence.

If the Douglas Park Bridges do move, can you imagine the outcry which will occur, if they have to be closed?

Apart from the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Anzac Bridge, the Westgate Bridge in Melbourne, and the bridge over the Hawkesbury, on the road to Newcastle, this bridge is probably the next most strategic and economically important bridge in Australia (and it might outrank the Hawkesbury Bridge). It is a key bridge in a very strategic position, on the Hume Highway, connecting Sydney with all points south - Southern Highlands, Goulburn and Canberra, and ultimately, Melbourne. It carries a vast amount of commercial and industrial traffic, each and every day.

Do you remember going through Bargo and Picton and up and over the Razorback, in the 60s? Well folks, that is a possibility once again, if Longwall mining is allowed to go ahead. Can you imagine the slow lumbering lines of B-Doubles carrying the huge amount of freight which goes by road, today?

And don't forget that the Inquiry into the Southern Coalfields is specifically precluded from investigating buildings and built structures. So this issue is outside their terms of reference.
I feel as if I am writing a new chapter from Alice in Wonderland.

Now you know why I say this should be filed away under "I told you so". Keep it for future reference.

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