Paradise Dam.
Paradise Dam.

New evacuation trigger set for Paradise Dam

A NEW evacuation trigger has been set at Paradise Dam while the Essential Works are underway.

According to the Paradise Dam Emergency Response Overview from this month, evacuations will be activated when 7.2m is reached at the Mt Lawless gauge, rather than the previous trigger of water 6.9 metres over the spill way.

With the spillway being lowered as part of the works the height of water over the spillway will not be a reliable trigger for emergency planning or evacuation.

In accordance with regulatory guidelines, SunWater has developed an Addendum to the Paradise Dam Emergency Action Plan during the essential work which will see the gauge at Mt Lawless used as the new trigger.

A SunWater spokesperson said the Mt Lawless gauge was nearest to Paradise Dam and provided a good indication of upstream catchment flows.

"It takes between four and 26 hours for flows to travel from Mt Lawless to the dam, which provides good advance notice of the flows that will be experienced," the spokesperson said.

"The gauge will be used to monitor river heights, with defined heights triggering a range of flood and failure actions in the Paradise Dam Emergency Action Plan Addendum.

"It has been agreed by the Local Disaster Management Group that the Mount Lawless gauge be used as a common reference point."

Data from the gauge is publicly available on the Bureau of Meteorology website.

The spokesperson said SunWater monitors the entire catchment on forecast and observed stream flows, as well as rainfall, as these provide early indicators on what will occur at Paradise Dam and downstream.

All referable dams in Queensland are required to have an EAP in place to document when actions will be taken regarding early warning and notifications.

"The risk of dam failure at Paradise Dam has resulted in a conservative approach, with the 7.2m trigger height in place to enhance community safety in case of a major flood event," the spokesperson said.

"SunWater determined this approach with endorsement from the North Burnett and Bundaberg Local Disaster Management Groups.

"Whilst a major flood event is very unlikely to occur during the dry season, it is necessary for to have a proactive EAP in place for any potential event."

The overview states dams are complex and Paradise Dam could fail due to overturning and sliding, a flood, piping or terrorism or a deliberate act.

The spokesperson, the EAP Addendum triggers are based on factor of safety risk assessments conducted for Paradise Dam, which have been independently reviewed.

Evacuations are managed by the LDMGs and District Disaster Management Group and are planned in response to specific events.

"SunWater has engaged with the LDMGs to develop the EAP Addendum for the Essential Works period and this information has been shared with downstream residents and other groups," the spokesperson said.

"More than 20 downstream residents have been directly contacted via meetings, phone calls and emails, and SunWater has shared information about the Addendum at information sessions and zoom meetings.

"Updates have also been shared to social media. SunWater communicates EAP alerts with direct phone calls and SMSs to residents immediately downstream of the dam, as well as via the SunWater APP."

The spokesperson said SunWater was committed to ensuring the community has access to information about the risks with Paradise Dam and how they are managed.

"Our priority is - and always has been - to protect lives and property," the spokesperson said.

"The feedback we have received is that residents understand the need to accommodate a new trigger point during the essential works at the dam and that we are taking a conservative approach.

"The works are being undertaken to enhance community safety and are being conducted during the dry season when wet weather is less likely."

For more information or to look at the overview click here.