Despite flood turmoil, Lawrie Briscoe wouldn’t call anywhere else home.
Despite flood turmoil, Lawrie Briscoe wouldn’t call anywhere else home.

Dam plan needed: Mayor

AFTER 17 years in the same spot, it would take more than floodwater for Lawrie Briscoe to leave his home.

The pensioner was flooded twice in two weeks in his Fitzroy St council unit, but he still couldn't face leaving and many neighbours feel the same.

The flood repair bill for Fitzroy St's 18 social housing units could top $288,000.

With council's insurance limited to $250,000 for all its damaged property across the Southern Downs region, Mayor Ron Bellingham said it was “a concern”.

A report, which will be tabled at tomorrow's community services committee meeting, describes the “traumatic” experience the mostly-elderly tenants went through when the units were flooded twice in two weeks.

Water entered the properties to a level between 55mm and 1.1 metres causing extensive damage to all joinery, floor coverings, paint work, appliances and cabinets.

The officer charged with writing the report estimates an average cost of work per unit of $16,000, which works out to $288,000.

The report says, “While all tenants were evacuated, most have been keen to return to their homes in spite of the state of them.

“The tenants have shown great determination and have worked well with us to clean up the properties.”

The report said it had been a “traumatic experience” for all the residents of the units.

“Many lost all their possessions and many of them are quite fragile and keen to have some comfort and normality restored to their homes,” it read.

“Information has been forwarded to council's insurance brokers requesting an assessor inspect the damage.”

Yesterday Cr Bellingham said council's insurance did cover floods but only to a maximum of $250,000.

“The amount of money is of concern but it's more about the people who live there and the disruption they have put up with,” he said.

Cr Bellingham conceded the flood plain wasn't “the ideal place” to house elderly residents but council wasn't sure where they could be moved.

“The proximity to the CBD is also important but we have to look at all the options,” he said.

Council officers are said to be “exercising their minds” to find a solution.

But for Mr Briscoe, he doesn't think much can be done.

“It would cost a million dollars to lift these timber houses. Then there are the brick ones and they copped it just as badly,” he said.

“It's just a matter of sitting it out and hoping we don't get another flood.”

There are now a few vacancies in the Fitzroy St units though it will take two to four weeks for repair work to be carried out.

The report says the timeframe will also be subject to the availability of tradespeople to undertake any necessary repair works.

“There are currently three vacancies – one as a result of death of a tenant, one tenant relocated prior to Christmas (and) one tenant relocated to Toowoomba after the floods at his request,” it said.

Meanwhile Leslie Dam owner SunWater says it has no plans to release any water from the dam west of Warwick still at 100 per cent of capacity, despite such a move about to be undertaken at Brisbane's Wivenhoe Dam in case of further heavy rainfall.

The release would be designed to create spare capacity in Wivenhoe and follows criticism that dam operators did not release enough water early which in turn made the Brisbane flood worse.

A SunWater spokeswoman said unlike Wivenhoe, Leslie was “not designed” as a flood mitigation dam and there was no procedure in place for pre-emptive releases.

“The two can't really be compared as Wivenhoe is part of a water grid and so there is a back-up for urban water supplies,” the spokeswoman said.

“There is no back-up for Leslie Dam and the issue is that the water in it is owned by (irrigation) users who have paid for their entitlements.”

But Cr Bellingham yesterday said if another “extreme” forecast was received by council he would like to see some water released from Leslie Dam “as a cushion”.

His comments follow similar concerns in Warwick that the large amount of water released from Leslie shortly before the January 11 flood worsened its effects upstream in the Condamine.

Many have said an earlier controlled release from Leslie Dam could have lessened the flood's reach into homes and businesses.

Cr Bellingham said council and SunWater had an excellent working relationship and that Leslie Dam, despite it being primarily irrigation storage, had the ability to play something of a flood mitigation role when needed.

“I don't believe there needs to be any release at this stage but the weather forecasts these days are surprisingly accurate,” the mayor said.

“If an extreme scenario becomes likely again then I would like to think SunWater would be receptive to any request from council to drop a bit of water out of Leslie Dam to allow for a cushion.”

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