April 21st 2011
KHS “Looking Back” Column – for the Kimberley Echo, Thursday April 21st 2011.
From The West Australian,
ORD RIVER SCHEME WILL DWARF SNOWY PROJECT
[Undated clipping KHS Ord River Project Press Cuttings – 1960 – 1963 – circa March/April 1961]
Difficulties were found “taming this giant river to provide an irrigation area in one of the most potentially rich farming areas in Australia.” During the 1960/61 wet season the contractors for the Ord River diversion dam, Christiani, Nielsen & Clough, had a forced retirement from the river bed foundations, with the Ord still flowing over Bandicoot bar in April 1961. When work was not possible in the river bed, the contractors had erected on the east bank of the Ord, a gantry crane and plant to fabricate pre-stressed concrete beams, which would form the framework of the new main road to Wyndham across the Diversion dam.
The diversion dam was the first step in the Ord River irrigation project and stage two — the Ord River main dam catchment area — alone would be “bigger than the entire Snowy Mountain scheme.” Soil erosion of the Ord and Fitzroy basins needed to be controlled if the dams were not to be immobilised by silting. “Already, the West Australian Government has resumed 750,000 acres from Vesteys Pty. Ltd. and will spend £150,000 regenerating the most eroded area of the Ord valley to reduce siltation in the major dam site.”
“The Ord project is only part of the overall plan to trap the waters of the Ord, Fitzroy and Margaret rivers to provide 300,000 acres of irrigation,” in the Kimberley region, which needed to be replanned. “At present there is not a single bitumen road in the area outside the scattered townships.”
Pre-stressed beams, Bandicoot Bar, circa May 1961 - Ord River Irrigation Area – KHS Digital Archive Number KHS-2010-2-097-cr-PD – Estate of Cyril Ion - Allister Family Collection – This photograph was digitised with assistance from the Shire of Wyndham East Kimberley.