The Coolmunda Dam was completed in 1968 and helped rejuvenate the tobacco industry and provide reliable irrigation for farmers in the district.
The Coolmunda Dam was completed in 1968 and helped rejuvenate the tobacco industry and provide reliable irrigation for farmers in the district. Contributed

Mammoth project hits half century, it all began with tobacco

A MAMMOTH project that brought industry and fertility to the region of Inglewood is being celebrated 50 years from its completion, but some residents fear "poor maintenance" could pose a risk to homes and businesses in the town.

Coolmunda Dam was a landmark multimillion-dollar project that finished in 1968 and has since been dubbed the region's biggest asset.

Bringing families of engineers and construction workers to the region, the project began after a push to support tobacco growers who were running out of water.

Inglewood residents at the time remember a booming period where schools were full and businesses thrived with newcomers.

"There were kids everywhere and quite a community lived out at the dam and used to come in on the bus," Inglewood Heritage Centre president Nonnie McDougall said.

Located in an ideal catchment, the dam filled within a few weeks of its completion when a big storm hit.

But as quickly as the water flowed in, people flowed out.

The Coolmunda Dam is regarded by Inglewood townspeople as the most significant project in the area's history.
The Coolmunda Dam is regarded by Inglewood townspeople as the most significant project in the area's history. Contributed

"It was almost overnight, all of a sudden they all disappeared once the dam was completed,' Mrs McDougall said.

Built to be one of the most reliable dams in Queensland, irrigators are guaranteed to get their full allocation of water 83 years out of 100.

Inglewood farmer Rick McDougall said it was the most significant project the region had ever seen.

"It has made irrigation farming reliable," he said.

But fifty years on from the dam's completion, Mr McDougall said not all the benefits were going to local people.

He said water trading in the '90s allowed half of the water to be sold to farmers outside the area.

"It has limited the future development of our area because we only have half the water," he said.

Mr McDougall said diversity of farming had increased as a result of the water supply scheme.

 

"The reliability of that scheme has attracted a big feedlot, chickens and dairy."

While the dam's 50th anniversary will be celebrated on Friday, some Inglewood residents believe "poor maintenance" of the Macintyre Brook posed a major flood risk to the town of Inglewood, should the dam overflow.

Reginald Inglis said the dam could "fill overnight" and houses and businesses in the town would flood.

"I do think it's a great facility, but management and risk could very much be improved," Mr Inglis said.

He called on the State Government and SunWater, which managed the dam, to remove vegetation and sediment banks from the brook, which have built up over time.

"The population of the township and all the buildings are very vulnerable to a flood event and that flood event will be somewhat natural but can be exacerbated by the operation of the dam," he said.

The Daily News contacted the Queensland Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy and SunWater for comment but did not receive a response by time of writing.

A free open day will be held at Coolmunda Dam on November 24 from 10am to celebrate the anniversary with walking tours of the dam.



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