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Somerset Dam enthusiasts take rare tour inside the wall

Few people have seen the inside of historic Somerset Dam wall in the past 60 years.

But as plans to upgrade Somerset Dam take shape, community members have received a rare peek inside the bowels of the major dam.

The invitation was offered by Seqwater, as a way to engage and educate the public about the dam ahead of its scheduled upgrade from 2021-2022.

Across two days, more than 450 people walked across the crest of the dam, with some lucky people also going into the concrete tunnels within the dam wall.

Seqwater Chief Executive Officer Neil Brennan said the tour had given visitors unique insight into South East Queensland’s water history and a better understanding of the planned upgrade work.

“South East Queensland’s water supply has been a fascinating and often dramatic story as engineers and planners worked to adapt to a rapidly growing population over the decades,” Mr Brennan said.

“Somerset Dam is one the region’s key water storages. It was built between 1937 and 1959, with work suspended for a number of years due to World War 2.

“By taking part in the tour, residents were able to view the machinery used to operate the dam as well as the valves and steel gates that are used to release water – even graffiti inside the dam walls from operators dating back to the 1950s.”

Among the visitors were descendants, Henry Plantagenet Somerset, the pioneer pastoralist and politician whom the dam is named after.

The youngest of Henry Somerset’s grandchildren, Charles Somerset, 75, said the last time he walked on the dam wall was during its official opening, all those decades ago.

The retired grazier, who drove from Toowoomba with his wife Pamela and sister Sue to attend the event, said the tour had become a reunion of sorts for the Somerset family.

“We arranged to meet at the dam with my cousins, Arthur – the eldest of Henry Somerset’s grandchildren – and Bill who are also bringing members of their families along.

“It’s been ages since we’ve seen each other. It’s great to be able to meet up at a site that we all have a strong connection to.

“Grandfather died before I was born but my father would tell us a lot of stories about him, his life as a pioneer pastoralist and politician and how he was the first to suggest the site of the dam.”

Both the Somerset Dam and the Somerset Region are named in Henry Somerset’s honour.

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