The threat of flooding across central Wagga has propelled council to unveil a new plan that will see upgrades made to the Murrumbidgee River levee bank.
Central West Civil will carry out construction works over the course of six months from October 3.
Wagga mayor Greg Conkey stood alongside CWC’s general manager, Simon Withers, and Riverina MP Michael McCormack at the signing and exchange of contracts.
“(The) announcement is a huge milestone in the delivery of this important project for the city,” Cr Conkey said.
“We’ve had to follow an extensive process, and the community will be pleased to learn that construction of the first stage of the levee is now just weeks away.”
A 350-metre wide concrete spillway will be built at Flowerdale Lagoon and another 100m wide spillway will be built at Copland Street.
Mr Withers expects preparation works to be carried out from September and recognises the importance of delivering the project to Wagga.
“We look forward to starting work in Wagga this spring,” he said.
“We’ve had fairly extensive experience in (building) levees and have probably built 20 to 25 kilometres of levee banks.
“The project has been designed to have minimal impacts to adjoining properties and we are confident we can deliver the works in the assigned six-month time frame.”
Wagga council will contribute about $7.75 million to the upgrades and more than $4 million will be contributed in state government grants to the project.
The federal government will provide about $10 million in funding while Mr McCormack works to reduce insurance premiums for businesses in flood-prone zones.
“What we’ve announced is the fact that we’ve got the tenderer to build the levee bank which will provide one-in-100-year safety and assurance for the residents of Wagga they won’t be flooded,” he said.
“I will be working with the Australian insurance council to make sure that the premiums that people are paying (are reduced).
“There is some downward pressure on those premiums because it is so important that people are not paying insurance that they now won’t be needing.”
Local business owners across Fitzmaurice Street welcomed the upgrades and agreed they would provide much-needed relief for the city.
Store owners Adil Khan and Suzanne Allitt both think the upgrades are needed now more than ever.
“Our store is situated in a high-risk flood zone,” Mr Khan said.
“With the levee bank right behind us, to build it up higher is obviously going to make the flood risk a lot less.”
Ms Allitt said: “It’s very frightening with the volume of water behind our store. We get worried a flood could come around from the caravan park.
“If it breaches the levee, there’s no going back.”
More than 25,000 cubic metres of clay, topsoil and granite will be shifted by machinery as part of the stage one upgrade.
Cr Conkey estimated the project to be finished within a 16-month time frame, pending weather conditions.
“In April next year, we will be finished stage one,” he said.
“Hopefully in April next year we can also start stage two and (if) all the ducks line up, stage two will be completed by the end of 2018.”
A final position on upgrading the North Wagga levee is still being finalised by the Floodplain Risk Management Advisory Committee.
A report recommending options placing the draft study and plan on public exhibition will go before council in the coming months.