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Copeton Dam in northern New South Wales fills for first time since 2012

Wednesday November 24, 2021 - 01:10 AEDT
ABC image
Copeton Dam, the biggest in the New England north west, has spilled for the first time in nine years. - ABC

It is a spectacle, a rare sight and it has not been seen since 2012: The Copeton Dam near Inverell in northern New South Wales reached capacity overnight, and it is the talk of the town.

The dam issaid to be almost three times the size of Sydney Harbour and is spilling for the first time in almost a decade.

Peter Caddey,Inverell shire's manager of tourism and marketingsaid it was a magnificent sight.

"It really is a sight to behold," he said.

"She's cracked the 100-per-cent mark now and it's only about the fourth time since she was built [it was completed in 1976]that she's actually gone over it.

"You really need to be able to see it from the air to be able to understand exactly just this mammoth amount of water that's in her at this present time."

Mr Caddy said there had been a big influx of inquiries from people wanting to visit the area and see the dam.

"So many people are just asking questions, wondering how camping is going, wanting to make bookings and we've also seen a massive influx of day visitors as well just going out to rubberneck ? because she's an absolutely different beast when she's full."

Nervous time for irrigators

While Copeton Dam's full capacity was good news for water security, the spills ? on top of already full river systems? have the potential to lead to more flooding for farmers along the Gwydir River.

Flows are increasing from 6,000 megaliters per day to 10,000 per day.

Gwydir Valley Irrigators Association executive officer Zara Lowein saidwith Copeton Dam spilling, any extra inflows from more forecast rain would be a concern.

"It all depends what the rest of the week will bring. We're still forecast for patchy rainfall and some storms for Thursday and Friday," Ms Lowein said.

She said those with crops were nervously watching the forecast and any increased release volumes.

With full storage on farms as well, there arefew placesleft for extra water to divert to.

"We're kind of on tenterhooks a little bit. We've still got localised flooding in sections," she said.

"We've got summer crop just popping out of the ground ... and we still have a lot of harvesting to do for our winter cropso we're really watching and waiting."

SES crews assessdamage

Current waterlevels remain high in the Gwydir, Namoi, McIntyre and Peel Rivers but are expected to fallslightly or stabilise today.

SES crews across the New England north west are closely monitoringflood waters today, after river levels peaked overnight for most areas.

The Namoi River at Gunnedah peaked overnight at 8.25 metres and remainedat that level this morning.

The waters have causedoverland flooding and have cut-offroads. Although no homes have been affected near the Gunnedah area.

Upper Namoi Region SES Commander Dennis Buck said more than a thousand sandbags have beenused, and residents were prepared.

"Only two evacuations were made as a precautionary measure, and we haven't had any rescues overnight," Mr Buck said.

"Over the past few days however, we've had six flood rescues in Gunnedah from people driving through a road-closed sign and getting stuck."

On Tuesday, a person was rescued from a truck that was bogged under 2 metres of water.

"We've had people deliberating moving the road-closed signs. It's not an innocent mistake in most cases," Mr Buck said.

The Bureau of Meteorology haspredicted more showers for the north west slopes and tablelands, catching up to 15 millimetres in areas around Tamworth.

As more rain is expected later in the week,SES crews are taking advantage of the clearer skies to assess damage and move livestock to drier grounds.

"The water is now flowing through the river system, so we're expecting a fairly stable day and are monitoring the situation," Mr Buck said.

"It's been a very stressful few days, any respite we tend to take full advantage of."


© ABC 2021

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