Rockhampton Levee Bank progresses but may need more funds
AS WORK continues behind the on the South Rockhampton Flood Levee, the council has provided a comprehensive update for largest integrated levee in Australia.
The 8.7km levee, which will run from the Rockhampton CBD to the Bruce Highway at Upper Dawson Road, was identified as the most cost-effective option to mitigate the flooding in suburbs around the city.
If all goes to plan, bulldozers will begin pushing dirt next March in a scramble to get the major earthworks completed within one dry season.
Rockhampton Region mayor Margaret Strelow and the council's general manager of regional services, Peter Kofod spoke exclusively with The Morning Bulletin about some of the key developments including State Government intervention, design modifications, expressions of interest from major contractors, land acquisitions and negotiations with commercial entities.
The levee was declared a prescribed project by Queensland's independent Coordinator-General in November, to accelerate approvals required under state law.
Infrastructure and State Development Minister Cameron Dick said assessment was tly progressing via a Ministerial Infrastructure Designation allowing for a comprehensive assessment of all environmental, social and economic impacts.
"MIDs are an efficient, coordinated process used to assist the development of community infrastructure like schools, transmission lines and hospitals, and could enable the levee to be operational sooner," Mr Dick said.
"No further development approvals are required, however the MID ensures environmental assessment and community consultation still occurs."
The project is open for community consultation until June 21 with feedback being directed to the Department of State Development.
Cr Strelow said it was exciting to see the levee get to the stage where the Minister had brought it under his wing, removing administrative roadblocks and allowing for extra transparency, oversight and engineering expertise to incorporate international best practice for the levee's design.
She hoped the potential was there to design the levee to withstand a one in 200 year weather event.
"We think levees are just a bit of dirt but to an engineer, it's almost like a living thing, and it's a system," Cr Stelow said.
Mr Kofod said the benefit of having the State Government peer review was that someone else was looking at the design, to make sure it works, and it's safe.
He hoped that towards the middle of July, the minister would decide the project was feasible and issue planning approval and conditions to RRC.
From that point they could commence the final design process.
"It's probably another four months of work at least and that's when we will get to a position of knowing (roughly) the final cost," Mr Kofod said.
"I think the design changes and the reviews we're doing are removing that community uncertainty about whether this project is feasible and whether it will work. We're doing that due diligence."
"We're not holding the project up. We're doing all that work concurrently, but it will about August when the design's complete and we'll revise and prepare a new estimate.
"We will call tenders (from the short listed contractors), which means they have to price that project and by about November, we will know how much it's worth."
In the meantime, the council is undertaking geo-technical work and checking the soil was suitable from borrow pits.
Expressions of interest are being sought to short list three or four of the major contractors to design, construct and operate the levee for two to three years.
During that time, council staff will learn to operate the levee and the pump stations and operation will phased to the council.
The council has secured $3.4million from the State Government's Works for Queensland program for revetment works on the bank of the Fitzroy River.
Tenders will be called for within the next week for work expected to start in July.
Revetment works would involve piling up rocks at the site where the levee met the river bank to prevent river erosion.
"We need to do that independent of the levee," Mr Kofod said.
"If we don't do that, every time we get a major storm, we're losing a lot of bank."
Council had set aside $5million for land acquisitions in the levee bank corridor and Mr Kofod said the process was now "pretty well done".
"There's a couple that are going through the contractual stage but they're sorted in terms of price. I think there's a couple of properties that are under acquisition," he said.
Cr Strelow confirmed an agreement had been reached with a commercial entity which was receiving beneficial protection from the bank, about contributing to the cost.
"But that is commercial in confidence ... it's not signed yet," she said.
As part of the consultation with the community and tinkering with the alignment of the levee, there have been some minor changes replacing the sites where gates would have stood at Jellico St and the end of Quay St with ramps where vehicles will be able to drive over the levee.
An extra ramp along Fiddes St was included in the design to allow cattle to graze easily on either side.
"We have also done some minor changes to alignment which was better for the owner of the property, in some cases better for us, and saved us some money," Mr Kofod said.
"We have proposed to build road accesses to people's properties.
"It's got nothing to do with the levee but we found that there were some people using access which was not a legal access to their property, so we've tidied up some administrative and historical things where people didn't have the correct access to their property and were going through other peoples' land."
Looking at the evolving understanding of levee banks at an international level forced the council to make modifications in the lay out of pumping stations and associated piping.
Originally the pumping stations were planned to be embedded as part of the bank with pipes running through it, but it was noted that the water vibrations from the pipes contributed to a structural weakness in the banks.
To counteract this situation, the pumping stations are now planned to be set back from the levee bank with pipes running over, rather than through it.
Rockhampton MP Barry O'Rourke said fast-tracking the project was great news for residents.
"The levee will deliver many benefits to the community, especially to those who live, work and do business in areas that are regularly impacted by flooding," he said.
"Not only will construction of the levee deliver new jobs to Rockhampton, it will further protect jobs by reducing flood damage to commercial properties in the South Rockhampton area.
"These businesses have suffered millions of dollars in damage due to recent floods.
"The levee will help protect roads and infrastructure and keep the Bruce Highway open through the city, which helps to keep businesses open and people safe."
More information on the MID can be found on the departments website at https://planning.dsdmip.qld.gov.au/planning/better-development/infrastructure-designations