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Community members get a rare tour inside the historic Somerset Dam wall

Somerset Dam upgrade

Somerset Dam is one of several dams identified for upgrade as part of Seqwater’s Dam Improvement Program.  The dam plays an important role in the SEQ Water Grid and its continued performance and safety is critical to South East Queenslanders.

The aim of the upgrade is to improve the dam’s ability to withstand extreme floods and earthquakes. At this stage, construction is expected to start late 2021 or early 2022.

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Home What We're Doing Somerset Dam upgrade

At Seqwater, some of the dams we operate were built decades ago and, just like cars, they need regular maintenance to keep them in good working order and meet changing safety standards and guidelines.

In 2012-13, Seqwater commissioned an independent review, which found improvements are needed at many of our 26 regulated dams to meet Queensland’s dam safety guidelines and bring them in line with the latest engineering standards.

Temporary full supply level

In 2016, the flood operation procedures for Somerset Dam were modified as a precautionary safety measure and drinking water levels of both Somerset and Wivenhoe dams were temporarily lowered to maintain flood mitigation benefits provided by both dams. Somerset was lowered to 80 per cent of its normal drinking water storage and Wivenhoe to 90 per cent.

The full supply levels in both dams will remain lowered until Somerset Dam is upgraded.

 

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  • Queensland State Archives (4604) photo of Somerset Dam August in 1947 of Rigging No 1 Tail tower

    Recreation and heritage workshop

    Members of the Somerset Dam Upgrade Community Reference Group (CRG) met on 22 February to discuss how the project might impact on recreation and heritage. They also considered what measures could be put in place to reduce impacts.

    Recreation impacts

    While the project will not affect access to recreation, construction work may impact the appeal of the area to recreation users. CRG members discussed the flow on impacts of a possible reduction in visitors from outside the area on local business, particularly in the tourism and recreation areas.

    Cultural Heritage impacts

    The group discussed the role of Somerset Dam in the history of the Somerset Region and for Somerset Dam village in particular. The project will significantly change the appearance of the dam wall. Machinery, including spillway gates and winches, which were built in the 1930’s and 1940’s will be removed from the wall.

    Proposed measures to reduce or mitigate impacts:

    • Promote recreation at Lake Somerset during construction period
    • Construction updates should emphasise work is on the Somerset Dam wall only
    • Install signage on main road approaches from both the north and south to advise recreation at Lake Somerset is still open
    • Establish safe areas to view construction activity
    • Limit construction activity on weekends, particularly truck movements
    • Provide frequent updates to the community during construction
    • Relocate heritage items removed from the dam wall, such as gates and winches, to local parks or other areas where they can be displayed
    • Engage a local bus company to transport construction workers from nearby towns to the dam wall during construction period
    • Legacy project idea: Create a heritage trail from the campground in Somerset Dam village to the old flying fox tower above the dam wall
    • Display heritage items along the trail. Install signage describing the items and other local heritage stories, including from the traditional owners.

    Do you have any other feedback or ideas? Share them with the CRG by emailing [email protected]

    Somerset Dam Upgrade's Community Reference Grouop meeting

    Community Reference Group tackling social impacts

    The Community Reference Group (CRG) for the Somerset Dam Upgrade got together for their first meeting on Saturday 8 February. The first meeting focussed on understanding the project and the role of the CRG in designing a Social Impact Management Plan for the project.

    The 12 CRG members come from across the Somerset Region and represent both community and business interests. It includes tourism operators, members of the Rural Fire Service, residents living near the dam site, local businesses and Somerset Regional Council. They will work together over the coming months to come up with a plan to manage impacts and maximise community benefits.

    Somerset Community Reference Group - get involved

    Have your say – Community Reference Group

    Seqwater is establishing a Community Reference Group (CRG) for the Somerset Dam Upgrade. This group will work collaboratively with Seqwater to develop and implement a Social Impact Management Plan (SIMP) for the project.

    The group will help identify potential impacts of the upgrade and ways to mitigate them as well as opportunities to maximise community benefits from the project.

    Members of the CRG are expected to participate in at least six workshops in 2020 to create a draft SIMP. The outcomes of the workshops will be shared on this website so the rest of the community can have their say too.

    Get involved

    The CRG will include representation from many different stakeholder groups, so that we can better understand and consider different interests and concerns. We’re looking for people who can represent:

    • Residents living near the construction site (Somerset Dam village), upstream of the dam wall (Kilcoy, Hazeldean, etc) and downstream of the dam wall (Esk, Fernvale, etc)
    • Property owners or lessees adjacent to Lake Somerset or the Stanley River between Somerset Dam and Wivenhoe Dam
    • Businesses, including local businesses, tourism operators and employment or training services
    • Community interests including recreation, environment, heritage, health and community services.

    To register your interest in being part of the CRG, download and complete the application form below and return it to Seqwater by 5pm on Thursday, 2 January 2020

    Successful applicants will be notified before the first workshop in February 2020.

    Applications can be emailed to [email protected] or posted to PO Box 328, Ipswich QLD 4305. Preference will be given to individual applicants who can demonstrate strong connections to other members of their stakeholder groups – for example, membership of community organisations.

    What to expect

    The CRG will:

    • Assist with developing a Social Impact Management Plan (SIMP) that represents both community and Seqwater needs, addresses project impacts, and maximises opportunities and benefits.
    • Actively involve the community and key stakeholders in planning and decision making to ensure project delivery meets community expectations.
    • Raise awareness and understanding of the project in the community.
    • Improve Seqwaters understanding of community impacts and concerns related to the project, and the projects response to them.

    The CRG will meet for half day weekend workshops starting in February 2020. The CRG will continue to meet during construction to provide feedback on the effectiveness of mitigation measures. The CRG will help Seqwater improve the management of social impacts associated with the project.

    Community members get a rare tour inside the historic Somerset Dam wall

    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.

    Somerset tour

    Save the date! Somerset Dam Tour

    Save the date! We are holding free tours of Somerset Dam on 24 and 25 August 2019. You can take a tour of the dam wall and find out about the planned upgrade to Somerset Dam. This will be your opportunity to experience Somerset Dam from a different side – maybe even go through the tunnels in the dam wall.

    Want to be the first to know when free dam tour tickets are available? Sign up for Somerset Dam upgrade email updates  (select Somerset Dam Improvement in the subject) to receive the registration link in early August.

    You can also visit the historic village of Somerset Dam and support the community by buying some great local food.

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