This weekend’s 10th anniversary (January 10, 2021) of the flooding in the Toowoomba Region and the wider natural disaster that inundated much of the state is a time for deep reflection and praise, according to Toowoomba Region Mayor Paul Antonio.

Mayor Antonio said the flood event of January 10, 2011 in Toowoomba left indelible memories for anyone who witnessed the surging water or saw unimaginable pictures and vision of the disaster that isolated the city and cut off much of the broader region.

The Toowoomba flash flood was part of a wider flood disaster across Queensland that claimed 33 lives (with three people still missing) and which saw more than 78% of the state declared a disaster zone.

“Most importantly, we recall the tragic loss of three lives that occurred in the Toowoomba Region at that time,” Mayor Antonio said.

“It is a time to remember Donna Rice and her son, Jordan, who died when they were swept from their car during a valiant rescue attempt at the intersection of James and Kitchener streets.

“We also pause to remember Robert Kelly of Gracemere, who died on a flooded crossing near Brymaroo.

“Many other people were rescued across the city and region on that day and in subsequent days.

“Flooding first affected residents around Cecil Plains in late December 2010 and ongoing rain late that year and into 2011 meant just about the entire region was affected by flooding in some way. Flood events have also affected parts of the region in 2013, 2014, 2018 and in February 2020.

“The Condamine River and its tributaries spread across the vast flood plain along its length and Oakey residents also endured a devastating flood.

“In times of adversity it was uplifting to see the determined response by all emergency services personnel and volunteer groups, particularly the SES and community recovery groups like Lifeline.

“Our community forever is indebted to the courageous actions of the swiftwater rescue teams and all emergency services staff who worked tirelessly to evacuate or help residents.

“While the anniversary is cause for deep reflection, we can take great pride in the projects that have been completed that have made our region a much safer and more flood-resilient place to live.

“Council’s top priority has been to improve public safety and upgrade our flood immunity and our awareness about preparing residents for inevitable future events.”

bullockysrestMayor Antonio said the events of that fateful summer highlighted how a city 700m above sea level could not underestimate the unstoppable ferocity and sheer unpredictability of nature.

“History shows there have been other floods through the city, but nothing quite on this scale in recent times,” Mayor Antonio added.

“The Toowoomba Region experienced a very wet spring in 2010 with consistent rain across December and early January 2011. A heavy downpour on December 26, 2010 was followed by torrential rain on January 10, 2011. Up to 150mm of rain fell across parts of Toowoomba city and its saturated ground and creek catchments on January 10, 2011. *Rainfall details at the end.

“Council started the mammoth rebuilding process with the assistance of the Queensland Reconstruction Authority with funding provided through the joint State and Commonwealth funded Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements (NDRRA) program (up to 75% federal, 25% state funding) *see further details at the end.

“The Queensland Floods Commission of Inquiry clearly stated in its final report that councils had a responsibility to mitigate future flood impacts.

“The rebuilding included more than 1800 projects valued at $247 million, including approximately $220 million in NDRRA funding. (for flood events in 2011, 2013 and 2014). I am confident the region has vastly improved infrastructure that will offer greater resilience to withstand future flooding.

“Council also undertook one of the most comprehensive flood study projects by a local government in Australia.

“At the core of this work was the Flood Risk Assessment Planning Evaluation and Scheme Amendment (FRAPESA) project. It delivered multiple flood studies for 30 townships and the Condamine River catchment, along with comprehensive recommendations to better regulate development within flood risk areas to protect people, property, infrastructure and the environment from flooding.

“More accurate flood mapping allows a better understanding of a location’s vulnerability to flooding and helps to raise awareness about flooding and flood risks around the region for residents as well as State and local government policy makers.

“Our studies have provided greater clarity around what type of development is best suited to different areas, depending on the flood risk.

“This not only protects human life and property, but also has a beneficial flow-on effect for the insurance sector. These studies are living documents which will be regularly updated to reflect new development.

“Despite all the mitigation measures, creeks and gullies will flood roadways at times and I stress the State Government’s message that, ‘If it’s flooded, forget it’.”

Mayor Antonio said Council was advocating for external funding to complete future flood mitigation projects to upgrade the Neil Street culvert on East Creek (Neil Street and Chalk Drive, estimated to cost $12 million) and the proposed planning study for the Gowrie Creek Catchment Flood Mitigation Project downstream of the Toowoomba CBD, from Victoria Street to Griffiths Street, Willowburn. (study estimated to cost $400,000)

“Thankfully the James Street East Creek culvert upgrade project opened in September 2020 followed by the West Creek culvert upgrade project in late December last year.” (The project was jointly funded by the Australian and Queensland governments on an 80:20 federal:state basis.)

TRC Infrastructure Services Committee chair Cr Carol Taylor said Council was committed to improving the community’s ability to prepare and respond to future flooding and do what was necessary to create a safer, stronger and more resilient region.

“Council’s work on flood mitigation programs has left the organisation, other agencies and the community better prepared and aware of flood risks and how to deal with future events,” Cr Taylor said.

“Apart from a massive reconstruction program and ongoing annual capital works, Council has been working on a range of complementary projects covering land use planning, flood studies and mapping, overland flow mapping and emergency management planning.

“Following the 2010/2011 record flood events, Council undertook the largest flood recovery program the region has seen. This program was interrupted by further flooding in early 2013 and subsequent events.

“While the repairs and flood mitigation engineering were expensive, most of the funding was drawn from outside ratepayer contributions and the works have been designed to protect Toowoomba Region residents for generations.

“The impact of the 2010 and 2011 floods resulted in a local road network reconstruction program worth more than double the cost of Council's annual capital and maintenance works program. This was completed in late 2013.

“Works to repair damage caused by the 2013 floods were finished in June 2015. Around $200 million in new and improved infrastructure was replaced or installed across the region as a result of the floods.

“In addition to restoration works that were completed under the Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements banner, 13 other projects secured extra funding of approximately $10 million from the Queensland Reconstruction Authority under its Betterment program, which is funded under Category D of the NDRRA.

“This program specifically allows roads and other infrastructure to be built to a more flood resilient standard. Council also contributed more than $2 million to these projects.

djuanbridge“Besides the improvements to the area’s roads, Council has undertaken significant flood mitigation works in the Gowrie Creek catchment to improve public safety and create a more flood-resilient community.

“These projects reduce the likelihood of flooding in the CBD and now offer safety improvements at many road crossings across the city.

“The combination of detention basins and several channel improvement works, including the West Creek channel works as part of the Outer Circulating Road Victoria Street extension project and the upgrading of the East Creek Ruthven Street culvert, means that water gets away faster and more safely, reducing the risk of flooding.”

Cr Taylor said there was recent evidence showing how the massive construction programs were working during storm events.

“Recent heavy rain events in Toowoomba late last year, and on other occasions, showed that the various projects were working to do exactly what they were designed to achieve by keeping the creeks flowing in their respective channels.

“While we can’t completely safeguard against extreme weather events, I’m confident that the Region has vastly improved infrastructure that will offer greater resilience to withstand future flooding and mitigate flood impacts.

“Flood Early Warning Systems, funded partly by the state government, are operating in Toowoomba and Oakey. The systems provide advance warning to help motorists and emergency services respond if creeks rise to dangerous levels.”

Cr Taylor said Council in 2018 adopted the Toowoomba Overland Flow Path Study (TOFPS), which was designed to guide future capital works planning and inform future land use strategy planning. It concentrated on overland flow in the Gowrie Creek catchment.

“Overland flow in the Gowrie Creek catchment has the potential to cause significant property damage due to the widespread nature of this type of flooding across this large, urban catchment,” Cr Taylor said.

“As new asset data becomes available, the TOFPS will be updated as a ‘live’ tool’ for drainage infrastructure planning, strategic planning and development assessment into the future.

“Council in the 2017-18 Financial Year installed 10 rain gauges across the region – at Yarraman, Meringandan West, Gowrie Junction, Wyreema, Pittsworth, Clifton, Leyburn-Kirby Rd, Punch’s Creek-Turner Rd intersection (south east of Millmerran) and two at Kingsthorpe.

“The automatic rainfall gauges provide Council with accurate and timely information to improve drainage planning.

“Council has received 50% funding support to plan and install flood early warning systems for Cooyar, Jondaryan, Yarraman and Crows Nest, starting this financial year.

“Council also implemented the Guardian disaster management system within Council. This has allowed us to upgrade to a new Toowoomba Region Disaster Dashboard that offers our community real-time access to vital information.”

Coincidentally, this Sunday marks the 45th anniversary of the 1976 hail storm that tore a destructive path across the southern and eastern escarpment of Toowoomba. Hail, wind and driving rain destroyed windows and damaged roofs on hundreds of homes and businesses.

Rangeville State School, Toowoomba Grammar School and St Vincent’s Hospital reported some of the most extensive damage from the afternoon storm.

Flood recovery project details:
• Council’s flood recovery program valued at $247 million (for events in 2011, 2013 and 2014). NDRRA funding accounted for approximately $220 million of the total program.
• It included more than 1,800 projects – funding provided through the Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements (NDRRA) program. (75% federal, 25% state funding) plus significant TRC complementary funding
• More than one million hours worked on the main recovery program

Awards: Council’s Toowoomba Region Flood Recovery Program 2011 to 2016 won the Regional Development Projects category at the International Project Management Association (IPMA) Global Achievement Awards 2018. The award was presented in Helsinki, Finland. Submissions were judged on project management, achievement and excellence in delivering infrastructure for regional development, being able to demonstrate outstanding positive impacts on society and proving the application of effective and innovative solutions in project management.
Council was able to enter the IPMA Global Achievement Awards after having won the pre-qualifying awards, which included the Australian Institute of Project Management (AIPM) Queensland State Award followed by the National Award and the Asia Pacific Federation Award held in 2017.

Council also received the $10,000 FMA-NRMA Insurance Award for 2018 Flood Risk Management Project of the Year. The prizemoney was used to help fund the implementation of the Guardian disaster management system within Council.

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Additional flood mitigation project details

(The Toowoomba early flood warning system, Oakey early flood warning system, and Oakey flood forecasting projects $1.8 million in total, funded 50% by Council and 50% by the Queensland Government.

The Toowoomba Overland Flow Path Study was jointly funded by the Toowoomba Regional Council and the State Government through the Natural Disaster Resilience Program.)

The former Toowoomba City Council instigated the Gowrie Creek Catchment Management Strategy in 1998, which was updated as the Gowrie Creek Flood Risk and Mapping Study in 2007.

The 2010 and 2011 floods prompted Toowoomba Regional Council to review and update previous studies, with the assistance of NDRRA funding.

The East Creek Masterplan was prepared to identify a range of flood mitigation options including detention basins, culvert and/or road crossing upgrades and channel works along the creek corridor.

Detention basins on East Creek were designed to help to reduce major flood peaks downstream around the inner city and where East Creek joins West Creek.

Reducing the peak flow in turn reduces risks and hazards to the public and reduces downstream flooding and impact to areas including public spaces, roads and other infrastructure.

The combined detention basins at Ballin Drive and Garnet Lehmann parks provide several key benefits:
• reducing flood depths by approximately half a metre (500mm) in the CBD in a one in 100-year flood event,
• reduction in flood peak flow rates of approximately 40% at James Street and 30% at Ruthven Street,
• removing at least 15 properties from a one in 100-year flood event area,
• reducing the risk and improving the safety for pedestrians and road users,
• reducing the scale and cost of proposed road culvert crossing upgrades and new channel works,
• reducing repair and maintenance costs for infrastructure such as roads, footpaths and community assets, and
• improved control of urban stormwater and erosion.

Completed projects

Projects that have been completed along the Gowrie Creek catchment (including East and West creeks) include:
• Murray Clewett Environmental Wetlands, 1999
• Stenner Street detention basins, 2000
• Alderley Street detention basin, 2002
• Spring Street detention basin, 2004
• West Creek Herries Street to Russell Street channel improvement, 2007
• Ethan Street detention basin, 2007
• Wilf Gowlett detention basin, 2008
• Jellicoe Street Bridge, 2012
• Flood Early Warning System, (Toowoomba), 2013
• Dent Street rail bridge, 2014
• Outer Circulating Road project including culvert upgrades at Russell Street and major channel works downstream from Russell Street, 2015. Council received $45 million from the Queensland Government’s Royalties for the Regions initiative (under the Roads to Resources Program) to fund the design and construction of the OCR project. Additional funding support for the flood mitigation works has come through Council’s NDRRA flood recovery program which is funded jointly by the Australian and Queensland Governments and Toowoomba Regional Council. Ergon Energy also contributed $428,588 through its Community Powerline Program Fund to relocate powerlines and enhance the streetscape.
• Wetalla Bridge Upgrade (Gowrie Creek)
• East Creek:
o East Creek Ruthven Street culvert upgrade and Ruthven Street North Streetscape Upgrade (incorporating significant drainage improvements)

Gowrie Creek Catchment (Category D Program)

• Garnet Lehmann detention basin (2015)
• Ballin Drive detention basin
• Upper West Creek channel works and Goggs Street stormwater upgrade (included Department of Transport and Main Roads funds for pedestrian bridge and Royalties for the Regions funding to upgrade Goggs Street drainage)
• Spring and Ramsay Street detention basin upgrade and landscaping
• Gowrie Creek South Street (East Creek)
• Mary Street culvert upgrade

2011 Category B Program:
• Emu Creek Road
• Djuan Road bridge
• Clewley Park detention basin and channel repairs
• Bullocky’s Rest pedestrian bridge, Crows Nest
• Cockatoo Creek Bridge (Peranga’s Pioneers’ Bridge)
• Black Gully Reserve
• Dungannon road
• Ironbark Drive
• Lack Road
• Willow Springs Road
• Spring Street, Toowoomba

2013 Category B Program:
• Anduramba Range Road and Middle Road
• Mann Silo Road
• Saal Road

2013 Betterment Program:
• Glenvale Road
• Ironbark Drive
• Kingsthorpe-Haden Road Bridge

2014 Category B Program:
• Beauaraba Road

Toowoomba rainfall:
(Source: Bureau of Meteorology, recorded at Toowoomba City Aerodrome)

Toowoomba 2010 total rainfall: 1161mm (late 2010 monthly rainfall figures: August 88.4mm; September 92.6mm; October 81mm; November 76mm; December 399.2mm)

Toowoomba 2011 total rainfall: 1156.8mm. (January 2011 413mm; February 108.4mm; March 120.4mm)

Rainfall of between 600mm and 1000mm was recorded in the Toowoomba area from December 1, 2010 to January 31, 2011. Toowoomba’s Middle Ridge recorded 149.6mm of rain in the 24 hours to 9am on January 11, 2011.
On January 10, 2011, it is estimated the water level peaked in Toowoomba’s CBD around 2pm. (Source: Insurance Council of Australia)

Cobb & Co Museum reprises parts of Toowoomba Never Floods exhibition
Toowoomba’s Cobb & Co Museum is displaying some of the hundreds of memories shared by visitors to the 2012 exhibition Toowoomba Never Floods .... It’s on top of The Range.

The Toowoomba Floods 2010 Reflections digital display will be on display from Sunday, January 10 to Sunday, February 7, 2021. The Museum is open from 9.30am to 3.30pm at 27 Lindsay Street. Bookings are essential.

For details, please visit https://cobb.qm.qld.gov.au/Events+and+Exhibitions/Events/2021/01/Toowoomba+Floods+Reflections 

Captions: Top: Toowoomba Region Flood recovery and resilience projects include the Garnet Lehmann detention basin followed by the Bullocky’s Rest pedestrian bridge at Crows Nest; Djuan Road bridge; West Creek channel works and Goggs Street stormwater upgrade and the Outer Circulating Road (Victoria Street extension) project, including culvert upgrades at Russell Street and major channel works downstream from Russell Street (with construction, channel and aerial views).ocrchannelocraerial

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