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Cotter Dam flooding hides the underlying cost blowout

By johnboy - 27 March 2012 12

The ABC are crunching the numbers out at the Cotter Dam Expansion.

The budget for the Cotter dam enlargement project is set to blow out to more than $400 million.

The ACT Government has revealed the cost of the project rose by $33.5 million to almost $379 million, before floodwaters inundated the construction site earlier this month.

The project by Canberra’s water authority had been costed at $363 million and was due to be completed by August.

But the project has been plagued by wet weather since construction began in 2010.

UPDATE 27/03/12 16:03: The Liberals’ Zed Seselja is pointing out this will lead, eventually, to higher water prices:

“Water prices have already increased by 200 per cent since ACT Labor came to power and Canberrans will now once again be stung with even higher prices due to Labor’s inability to manage infrastructure projects.

“ACT Labor’s attempts to first blame the blowout on the March floods were made a mockery of by today’s revelation that the blown out had occurred before the rain began.

“Their attempts to then blame the cost blowout on 2010 and 2011 being „rainy years? is farcical and confirms they had no weather contingency planning in formulating the dam budget.

“Contingency planning really comes down to a question of basic competence, a test which ACT Labor has abjectly failed. Their short-term thinking on infrastructure has left Canberrans footing the bill for their budget blowouts and it’s unacceptable.

“The Canberra Liberal’s Infrastructure Canberra policy would develop a long-term infrastructure strategy which takes into account such contingencies including prospective economic variables. It would be overseen by an independent Infrastructure Commissioner, supported by a board, to advise on developments for the long-term interests of Canberra.

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12 Responses to
Cotter Dam flooding hides the underlying cost blowout
shirty_bear 10:11 am 28 Mar 12

Only a 10% budget blow-out? By modern standards, that’s still a good 40% under budget.

c_c 9:28 am 28 Mar 12

housebound said :

That said, the water recycling plant was indeed a threat, and it was proposed as an alternative to a new dam (at least by the anti-dams lobby). Not so sure about that approval claim, though. The water recycling plant was a background election issue in 2008, and it seemed to disappear after that.

Throughout the process, roughly 2005-2007, everything was being viewed as an alternative to everything else.

Hence the “Virtual Dam” was proposed as an alternative to a new Tenant or Cotter Dam. The Snowy transfer was proposed as an alternative to both a virtual and new dam.
And in turn all these options were proposed as alternatives to recycling, and vice versa.

In the end government and ACTEW chose a selection incorporating a new dam, rights to Snowy transfers and some elements of the virtual dam proposal.
The recycling scheme exists now in the form of non potable recycling. The potable recycling has fallen off the agenda in most places, media lost interest. But it’s still there, indeed the non-potable recycling scheme is growing.

welkin31 9:10 am 28 Mar 12

You only have to look back in RiotACT archives to 7 Jan 2011 –
http://the-riotact.com/wet-2010-just-a-blip-according-to-actew/35157
to find Mark Sullivan saying “…once the rains stopped predicted to be in February or March the territory would again have to face at least 20 years of low rainfall.”
Interesting the link to Canberra Times does not work now – and right now the ACTEW site is down – message says [The ActewAGL and ACTEW websites are currently unavailable. The system is being updated. We expect this will take approximately 15-20 minutes]
Taking longer than that.

It looks obvious now that a blowout to near $500mill can not be ruled out.
The Libs have a rich lode of Labor and GreenLabor water policy to critique as the election rolls nearer.

Deref 8:31 am 28 Mar 12

I’m voting for Zed. Everything’ll be free under his gubmint.

Thumper 8:16 am 28 Mar 12

artuoui said :

I remember they only got approval to build this thing after threatening that we’d have to drink our own urine if we didn’t.

That was simply an option to be considered.

housebound 6:31 am 28 Mar 12

c_c said :

artuoui said :

I remember they only got approval to build this thing after threatening that we’d have to drink our own urine if we didn’t.

Now lets get some gosh darn facts in here. Reports dating back to 1995, well before the current debate on climate change was so significant in decision making, stated Canberra would need a new water supply by the mid 2000s. 1995 people!.

Probably a good idea. In 1997, ACTEW was telling us all that there was enough water for a population of 400,000 (quoted in State of the Environment reports). Queanbeyean has about 35,000 and the ACT about 360,000 people (rounding up the numbers). So we’ve just about reached that limit.

You’ll find there’s little argument about more water being needed to supply an ever increasing population.

That said, the water recycling plant was indeed a threat, and it was proposed as an alternative to a new dam (at least by the anti-dams lobby). Not so sure about that approval claim, though. The water recycling plant was a background election issue in 2008, and it seemed to disappear after that.

c_c 10:21 pm 27 Mar 12

artuoui said :

I remember they only got approval to build this thing after threatening that we’d have to drink our own urine if we didn’t.

Your memory appears to be faulty. It was never an either/or decision, new dams were among the more than 50 options explored. Several of the options were chosen in the end including transfers from Tantangara, harvesting from the Murrumbidgee and recycling, which is still to commence as a pathfinder project. Trying to say they blackmailed people into this is plainly false.

Now lets get some gosh darn facts in here.

Reports dating back to 1995, well before the current debate on climate change was so significant in decision making, stated Canberra would need a new water supply by the mid 2000s. 1995 people!

Reports from the late 1940s stated that the preferred site for an additional dam at that time was a small way downstream of the present Cotter Dam. Mainly because the Cotter Catchment was actually much larger than they anticipated, the existing dam was overspilling too often. And because of that, the new dam downstream was always going to be at risk, and more so back then, from being submerged during construction.

knuckles 9:52 pm 27 Mar 12

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t

artuoui 8:55 pm 27 Mar 12

I remember they only got approval to build this thing after threatening that we’d have to drink our own urine if we didn’t.

c_c 7:22 pm 27 Mar 12

MERC600 said :

He said he wouldn’t send Prof Flannery a movie of it as the Prof was probably flooded with piccys.

Oh for goodness sake.

Global warming is a misnomer, and so some extent it’s the environmentalists to blame for this whole idea that global warming means drought and only drought.

There’s a reason the UN now refers to it as “climate change”, because the warming actually has far broader consequences. It makes weather cycles more acute, meaning droughts and floods will each be more severe.

All sending pics of this to the Prof is going to do is prove what a simplistic bunch some are.

MERC600 6:28 pm 27 Mar 12

Sorry I did get a little carried away by the roar of the overflow and not the fact what the delay will bring about. Yep we will have to pay for it by extra charges. I believe some will be picked up by insurance, but not the lot. Am unsure how our water charges rate against other interstate mobs at the moment, is it near on parity ? I must admit I have been known to mutter quite a bit about ACTEW and their sponsoring of various things, but I read somewhere recently that ACTEW we were about 20’th on a list of Ozzie leccy prices. So something is going right.

MERC600 6:01 pm 27 Mar 12

I went out to have a look on the 6th. It was spectacular. But the roar was the thing that got me. Hell it was powerful . There was a bloke taking a video of it. He said he wouldn’t send Prof Flannery a movie of it as the Prof was probably flooded with piccys. Instead he reckoned he would just send him the sound track. Oh well it will end up eventually being good for the Coorong, where I used to live ( well pretty close ).

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