Paradise Dam ‘stable’ but further tests needed to decide its future

Tests will determine whether the Paradise Dam is at risk of failure and, if so, what should be done about it.

May 21, 2020, updated May 22, 2020
Paradise Dam in flood.

Paradise Dam in flood.

Natural Resources Minister Anthony Lynham said the government had accepted all eight recommendations out of a Commission of Inquiry into the dam, near Bundaberg, which has reduced its holding capacity due to safety concerns.

While the recommendations apply largely to future water projects, the inquiry found the dam’s spillway was too narrow, and the controls that applied to such projects at the time were inadequate.

However, the inquiry was unable to definitively conclude the dam was at risk of failure. That is despite Sunwater already moving to lower the spillway wall by five metres, with work now approved by the Federal Government and due to start on Monday.

“In circumstances that are no more severe than those it experienced in the 2011 and 2013 events, the dam is stable,” the inquiry reported.

“Uncertainty, however, attends the prospect of much larger floods. A stability assessment for more severe loads depends upon assumptions about which the experts disagree.”

Lynham said the inquiry heard evidence that if the 2013 floods lasted any longer, the erosion due to downstream issues would have undermined the dam and potentially caused its failure.

“The Commission heard evidence about a litany of issues with the design and construction, some of which were ultimately found to be root causes of the present-day structural and stability concerns,” he said.

“Importantly, the Commission considers that Sunwater’s position in responding to the risks associated with the dam is reasonable.”

The Government, and Sunwater, will do more testing on the dam, as recommended by the inquiry and a Building Queensland report handed down in March. The decision to proactively drain water from the dam, to reduce its holding capacity, remains controversial.

“As always the Government’s priority remains community safety – with Paradise Dam to continue to provide long term water security and underpin economic prosperity in Bundaberg and the Burnett for generations to come,” Lynham said.

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