OVERFLOW: Angus McDonald, Nick Crispin and Alex Cole check the flood heights at the Fry St levee.Photo: JoJo Newby
OVERFLOW: Angus McDonald, Nick Crispin and Alex Cole check the flood heights at the Fry St levee.Photo: JoJo Newby

Council admits levee did overtop

AFTER a fortnight of denials, Clarence Valley Council's deputy general manager Rob Donges finally conceded water overtopped the levee at Fry St, Grafton.

Mr Donges outraged Fry St residents by saying floodwater did not overtop the levee in front of their homes, but yesterday he said technical terminology led to a miscommunication.

He was in Yamba during the floods, working in an emergency office set up for workers who were flooded in.

He said the difficulty arose because in engineering terms what happened at Fry St was not an overtopping event, and as he was unable to view the wall for himself he had to rely on reports from the ground.

"It was a semantics issue," Mr Donges said. "But the fact is there was water on both sides of the levee and in practical terms that means it overtopped."

Mr Donges acknowledged the Fry St levee was lower than at other points but said the council would not be building it higher.

"You have to see the levees as a complete system and every flood is different, while it overtopped at Fry St this time it has not over-topped there before," he said.

When Mr Donges was first confronted with levee designer Trevor Jones's claim Fry St was a low point he passed the call to the council's operations manager, Tim Jenkins.

"Do I know categorically if there is a low point at Fry St? No," Mr Jones said on January 31.

Mr Donges continued to stand by his man and on February 1 he denied the levee had been overtopped.

"I've spoken to Tim Jenkins and he stands by his report that it was intermittent wave action that caused the water to spill over the levee," Mr Donges said.

"It's not what he considers 'overtopping'."

Yesterday the council was repairing the wall when Mr Donges decided to concede it overtopped at Fry St.

"We are acknowledging that water spilled over the top because we have no desire to get into further arguments with property owners," he said.

"Consequently we will acknowledge the levee overtopped at Fry St."

Mr Donges also said repairs would be undertaken to straighten the levee after it tilted under the weight of the water.

McHugh St resident Robert Fish was one of those who had floodwater flow into his backyard.

Mr Fish said he and one of the levee's designers, Ori Pastega, had talked about Fry St being a low point in the levee wall.

"People should engage their brains before using their mouths," Mr Fish said.

He said the low point was caused by a sag in the wall and ultimately it was a maintenance issue that needed to be fixed.



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