1968-1972-Ord Stage 2

Extracts - Roy Hamilton's paper given at the 1991 conference, "50 Years of Ord Irrigation - Reviews & Future Perspectives"

[As early as July 1963 when Menzies opened Ord Stage 1]

...it was expected that the Prime Minister would announce the allocation of funds for a start to be made on the Main Dam. This offer was not forthcoming.

A detailed submission in 1966 for funds for the construction of the main dam was followed by another in 1967 which claimed a good future for cotton, and for grain sorghum and the enrichment of the cattle industry with protein fodder.

There were however many objectors and protestors to the proposals. The eastern states people did not want the money spent in the west, while others had more specific reasons.

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November 1st 1967 the Commonwealth Government decided to approve the Ord main dam and further irrigation works. In June 1968 the Western Australian Agreement (Ord River Irrigation) Act 1968, was enacted.

This Act provided $20,930,000 as a non re-payable grant for the construction of the dam, and $27,250,000 as an interest bearing loan for construction of irrigation works.

A Senate election was not far away. The Federal Raw Cotton Bounty Act, 1963 was due to expire in 1968.  Without this support the farmers were in financial difficulties and so after intense lobbying by the State, the Commonwealth agreed to extend the bounty for a further 3 years.

Dumas, in his famous expedition with Kim Durack had selected four possible dam sites. With the preferred site being the southern-most and just to the south of Coolibah Pocket. From 1942 survey work and design had been based on this site. However in 1950 the site was abandoned due to foundation problems and spillway considerations.

The number 2 site just to the north of Coolibah pocket then became the preferred site with intensive survey, diamond core drilling and planning.

Early work was based on a concrete dam with a spillway over the top. Further work showed that an earth fill dam with adjacent spillway would be the most economical.

Then in 1966 it was found that by raising the wall a further 6 metres a much smaller spillway could be located several kilometre to the north of the dam. This would not only provide a greater amount of water in storage but would be cheaper to build because of the considerable savings in the cost of excavating the spillway.

During March 1968 applications were called worldwide for registration of tenderers with tenders closing on October 15 1968.

On November 19 1968 a contract for the construction of the dam was awarded to

Dravo Pty Ltd a subsidiary of Dravo Corporation of USA.

By the end of 1968 the State had constructed accommodation and office buildings on the site and was providing a small nursing post, a post office and a school. This was sufficient to allow the contractor to commence work early in 1969.

In April 69 the contractor received a large shipment of heavy earth moving equipment from USA in a ship charted for the purpose. Earth works started immediately.

Without providing too much detail in a paper for this purpose, suffice to say that the work on the dam, spillway and ancillary features continued successfully to a conclusion in 1972 with an official opening on 30 June 1972 by Prime Minister William McMahon. and supported by State Premier John Tonkin and Minister for the North West Herbert Graham.

The final cost of the [Ord River] dam was nearer $27 million.

The State wished to proceed with development of the irrigation areas with the loan funds provided, however insect problems with the cotton crops was causing concern in the Eastern States and in fact State Treasury and Agricultural Department officers also argued against the opening up of new land.

State Cabinet however made a decision to open five only 1000 acre (400 Ha) farms on Packsaddle Plains, much to the delight of the farmers and locals, who cheered loudly when the Premier made the announcement at that opening ceremony.

These five farms were allocated in 1973 to

    * Dessert Seed Co of USA 3 farms

    (To produce pure seed for South East Asia)

    * Quilty and Dickey 1 farm

    ( For cattle fattening purposes)

    * A Shaik McQuol of Pakistan 1 farm

    ( For cotton crops)