19 May 2021

Heavy rains wreak havoc on Bega Valley roads, disrupt Brown Mountain repairs

| Albert McKnight
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Flood-damaged section of Coopers Gully Road in Bega

A damaged section of Coopers Gully Road in Bega following recent heavy rains. Photo: Bega Valley Shire Council.

Heavy rains and seven flooding events since February 2021 have taken their toll on Bega Valley’s roads, as well as on major roadworks at Brown Mountain.

It has been a wet year so far, and according to Weatherzone’s records for Bega, by mid-May 660.4mm of rain had fallen over 61 days, and about half of the total millimetres fell in May.

The date of 12 May set the new record for the month – by 9:00 am that day Bega had been drenched with 139.8mm.

Bega Valley Shire Council said its roads and transport stormwater infrastructure was significantly damaged from the cumulative impact of the seven floods in the past few months.

A council spokesperson said damage from the recent rains included sink holes affecting roads at Wandella, Merimbula, Eden and Bega, as well as landslips and widespread erosion.

“At the peak, we had 26 roads closed due to the flood waters,” said the spokesperson on Tuesday, 18 May. “Localities in the south were particularly heavily impacted.

“With the water still receding and several of our roads still inundated, it will be at least next week before inspections and assessments can be completed.”

Bega Valley Shire Council’s Recovery, Rebuilding and Resilience project lead, Chris Horsburgh, said while the shire had experienced floods in the past, the size and location of the current damage highlights the unprecedented weather events of the past 18 months.

“Work is currently underway to ensure all roads are accessible, which will continue as the water subsides,” he said.

There are also questions regarding how much impact the rains have had on roadworks at Brown Mountain, where maintenance work to Snowy Mountains Highway includes a $2.2 million slope stabilisation.

READ MORE Highway to be closed on Brown Mountain at night for eight weeks

The highway has been closed to all traffic overnight from 7:00 pm to 7:00 am on Sundays to Thursdays since April, and Live Traffic NSW says the works are currently estimated to last until 14 June.

In May, a Transport for NSW spokesperson confirmed the recent rains had impacted progress at the Brown Mountain site.

“Transport for NSW is reviewing the schedule of work and will keep the community informed if any changes are required,” said the spokesperson.

In regards to works across Bega Valley, Mr Horsburgh said local contractors are assisting council to remove silt and debris, as well as clearing roadside drains.

“There are also a number of large landslips and damage to bridges that will take longer to repair,” he said.

“Temporary traffic measures will be in place while engineering inspections are undertaken and works commence to restore the damaged sites.

“Once all roads and bridges are temporarily repaired, the process of restoring transport assets to their pre-disaster condition will begin.

“This phase of the repair process may take up to two years given the large geographical size of the shire and the high number of council-owned and maintained roads.”

READ ALSO: Moruya machinery club to rise from ashes after losing clubhouse in bushfires

Restoration and repairs of council’s flood-damaged assets are funded by the Commonwealth Government and NSW Government under the Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements (DRFA).

“Contractor availability is also a factor in delays to restoration work,” said Mr Horsburgh. “All DRFA work must be undertaken by an external contractor and not council staff.

“There is a high volume of civil works being undertaken across the shire and neighbouring shires and we are essentially ‘sharing’ contractor resources, resulting in delayed start times and potential cost increases.”

The council spokesperson said it is not yet possible to put an exact timeframe on when all the work will be finalised, but damage that impacted road safety, property access and highly trafficked roads would be prioritised to minimise the impact on the community.

If you come across an area of damage that concerns you, advise Bega Valley Shire Council by calling 02 6499 2222, or emailing [email protected].

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