Drilling starts near the Lismore levee wall to study the soil structure beneath the cracked section between the riverbank and Molesworth Street.
Drilling starts near the Lismore levee wall to study the soil structure beneath the cracked section between the riverbank and Molesworth Street. Cathy Adams

Work starts to plug levee

PRELIMINARY repair work to Lismore’s cracked flood levee has begun, with geotechnical specialists drilling three 17m core samples to test the stability of the riverbank.

Richmond River County Council floodplain services manager Michael Wood yesterday said that the 100mm crack behind the heritage-listed Newtrain Building had expanded 35mm since The Northern Star revealed in February that a 20m section of land was slumping into the Wilsons River.

“This is the first stage of getting things under way and getting Lismore’s flood levee system shored up again,” Mr Wood said.

“It has already kept two floods out and we want to make sure it does that again.”

Due to the urgency of the repairs, drilling was scheduled to start yesterday, before the NSW Government announced on Wednesday $600,000 of State and Federal funding would be provided to repair the levee under the Natural Disaster Resilience Grants Scheme.

Mr Wood said the drilling, which will extend 7m under the water level, would decide how far the levee wall needed to be moved towards the Newtrain building in Club Lane, Molesworth Street.

“We have a bank failure and it wants to let itself down slowly (into the river),” he said. “What the drilling will tell us is where the bank failures are and that will determine how far back we have to build the levee.”

During Lismore’s early years of settlement, residents used the riverbank as a de facto dumping ground that has since made the area unstable.

The levee was completed in 2005 at a cost of about $19 million.

However, it is believed, contrary to engineers’ advice, the section behind the Newtrain building juts out from the rest of the levee at the Wilsons River junction with Leycester Creek.

Mr Wood said negotiations with the Newtrain building owners to purchase the site were already under way through Lismore City Council.

He said while expert reports had offered a number of options, the purchase of the building and removal of the 1970s addition was the most viable option.

Rous Water general manager Kyme Lavelle said the further cracking over the last seven months showed there was a huge problem.

As engineers prepared to start drilling yesterday, mayor Jenny Dowell and Page MP Janelle Saffin were on hand to inspect progress.

“This funding has come at the right time,” Cr Dowell said. “It is a lot of money because it is a major piece of work.”

Lismore council will also contribute $200,000 to the levee’s reconstruction.

Ms Saffin said the funding announcement showed what the three tiers of government working together could achieve.

Other projects to receive the Natural Disaster Relief Resilience funding include erosion protection at Cape Byron headland and a trial sand scrapings project at New Brighton Beach.



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