Wivenhoe bungled in floods: mayor

ALLEGATIONS that Wivenhoe Dam was seriously mismanaged during the most crucial days of last January's flood have been backed by the Mayor of Ipswich, Paul Pisasale.

It was claimed yesterday the dam's operator, Seqwater, was an astonishing two days late in adopting the necessary water release strategy needed to minimise flooding in Brisbane and Ipswich.

The Australian newspaper yesterday claimed that emails and documents it had obtained showed dam managers were still sticking to the W1 release strategy, which is intended to keep open river crossings at Fernvale and Mt Crosby Weir, as late as the morning of Monday, January 10.

Seqwater told the public inquiry into the flooding the W1 strategy was stopped on the morning of Saturday, January 8, and the W3 strategy was then implemented.

W3 authorises the release of huge volumes of water to minimise the danger of flooding in urban areas alongside the Brisbane River.

If correct, The Australian's claims would prove Seqwater was far too lax in its response to the unfolding disaster.

Seqwater yesterday issued a statement refuting the claims as "inaccurate and unfounded".

But Cr Pisasale said it was clear huge mistakes had been made and the Queensland Flood Commission of Inquiry had failed to adequately examine how the dam was managed.

"I don't want to blame anyone but everyone knows there was too much water in the dam," the mayor said.

"The inquiry should have focused on Wivenhoe and whether it's meant to be for flood mitigation or water supply.

"When it was built after the '74 floods, the government of the day said it was for saving Ipswich and Brisbane.

"The thing that changed that was the drought and everyone developed a drought mentality. After the dam got down to not much more than 10%, no one wanted to drain the dam.

"I don't want to blame the dam operators because everyone had that drought mentality but in a wet season you don't let the dam get up to 190%.

"The inquiry was looking in the wrong place. They got it wrong; they simply got it wrong."

Yesterday's statement issued by Seqwater said: "The issue and the documents referred to by The Australian have been investigated by the Commission as part of its interim report in July 2011.

"The Commission's independent expert has examined Seqwater's management of Wivenhoe and Somerset dams during the January 2011 flood event. The report investigates, amongst other things, the impact of an earlier release strategy.

"The report of the Commission's expert finds that Seqwater's engineers, using the strategies in the manual and the information available to them, achieved close to the best possible mitigation result."

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