Snowy Mountains Hydro- Electric Scheme

Interesting address at Tumut by Associate Commissioner

21 November 1950 The Tumut and Adelong Times 

On Friday night last there was a large attendance of Tumut citizens at the public meeting in the Pastime Club Rooms to hear a very interesting and informative address on the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme given by the Associate Commissioner of the Authority undertaking the work, Mr. T. A. Lang. The Commissioner himself, Mr. Hudson, was unable to attend owing to illness.

The meeting was chaired by the Tumut Shire President, Councillor L E. Quarmby, who introduced Mr. Lang to the gathering. Mr. Lang opened his address by giving some ol the background of the need for such a huge undertaking as the Snowy Scheme.

In the development of a country such as Australia the most important things were its natural resources - water, land, coal, etc., of which water was the most important, and all of which made up the wealth of the nation.

Where the resources were plentiful there was a concentration of people.

The discovery of gold had caused the establishment of many of our principal towns and the people had gradually turned to other things such as farming, grazing and industrial pursuits.

Although there had been a drift to the cities from country areas, nevertheless agricultural production per head had forged ahead enormously. 

Australia generally had a lack of abundant water resources and the rainfall area was a narrow belt running from Cape York to Victoria and a small portion of Western Australia.

As one came inland from the coast the rainfall fell off from 50 to 60 inches down to 10 or 15 inches, resulting in rapid change in vegetation within a few miles.

There were no high mountains such as exist in New Zealand, America, etc., which form the origin of big river systems. 

The River Murray and the Murrumbidgee, with their tributaries, was the largest river system in Australia,  covering three quarters of Victoria and New South Wales and a slice of Queensland and South Australia. 

414,000 square miles drain into the Murray Valley with an average discharge of 10,000,000 acre feet per year.

The Tennessee Valley in America had a rainfall catchment area of 40,000 square miles, but it produced 46,000,000 acre feet of water per year.

The development of the water resources of this country was very important for its future expansion in agriculture and secondary industries. 

Continuing his address, Mr. Lang said the Snowy Scheme had been talked about since the early 1880's. 

The scheme was long overdue and Australia could have tackled the job many years ago with advantage. 

Water and power were the two main things required for Australia's progress.

The Government had adopted a policy of immigration whereby 200,000 people would be admitted to the country every year.

Water and power were the two basic things which would provide these people with work.

At the present time there was a great power shortage caused through inadequate equipment.

Australia's coal needs at the moment were 18,000,000 tons a year, whilst the production was 14,000,000 tons.

By the end of 1952 it had been estimated that 21,000,000 tons a year would be needed.

If that amount could not be produced, then Australia could not go ahead. Therefore, all water that could be conserved should be conserved because it was a basis of power and was an inexhaustible asset.

Although the water power potential in Australia is small, it was important.

The Snowy River area was one of the key areas because it contained the highest mountain area with high rainfall and where snow fell regularly.

It had the largest power potential on the mainland of Australia. This area comprised 2,500 square miles and ranged in height from 7,000 feet to 2,000 feet, with rainfall ranging from 120 inches to 20 inches. 

The four main rivers in the scheme would be the Snowy, the Murrumbidgee, the Murray and the Tumut. 

Years ago people conceived the idea of turning the Snowy into the Murray and using the water to turn the turbines as it fell to the lower elevation.

In 1944 the New South Wales Government set up a special commit- tee to investigate a proposal to turn the Snowy eastward to the Murrumbidgee for irrigation purposes.

Being an interstate matter, Victoria was immediately interested and a further inquiry was made in 1947 when a technical committee was appointed to find the best scheme of development of the Snowy waters.

In 1949 the Act was passed and Commonwealth and State Ministers agreed that the scheme should go ahead. 

The Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority was set up in collaboration with the State authorities for the production of hydro-electric power and later on for irrigation purposes.

With the aid of charts and maps hung on the wall Mr. Lang then proceeded to outline the work to be carried out in the scheme to harness the water.

At Jindabyne there was a narrow gorge opening out behind into a wide valley which would hold a huge quantity of water with the aid of a small dam. These dams would even out the flow of the rivers during wet and dry years.

A tunnel would be constructed from the Jindabyne Dam through to Swampy Plains, and the pressure caused by the fall in water would be used to manufacture electric power.

A small reservoir would be constructed at Spencer's Creek, and from there a tunnel would be constructed to the Snowy with a drop of 400 feet, then down to another power station, finally into the Snowy at Island Bend, 3 miles from the Hotel Kosciusko, where there would be another power station. 

At Adaminaby there was another splendid storage site on the Eucumbene. From Adaminaby Dam to the Tumut River the distance was about15 miles with a drop of 1,000 feet in elevation.

The Tooma River would also be utilised, and this with the waters of the Eucumbene would be taken through tunnels and power stations to the Tumut River to Lobbs Hole, the site of another station, and then down to Blowering, where a dam would also be constructed. Adam was also proposed at Tantangara, from where a tunnel would take the water into the Tumut River and thence to the Murrumbidgee.

Probably more turbines would be put in at Blowering.

These works would result in the construction of seven major dams, 80 to 250 feet high and storing vast quantities of water.

The Jindabyne Dam would be almost the same size as the Hume Dam.

There would be at least 16 power stations, which would produce two and three quarter million kilowatts at the peak load. The total generating plant in Australia at the moment was only two million kilowatts.

In addition to the power production 2,000,000 acre feet of water a year would be controlled for irrigation purposes, and which would mean another million acres of land under cultivation, thereby helping to develop the country and improving our standard of living. 

The preliminary estimate of the cost of the scheme was 225,000,000, but it would be a long time before all of that money was spent, continued Mr. Lang.

It was hoped to produce the first power in 4 years (60,000kilowatts).

Power would be needed in the area to carry on the works. It was hoped to commence tunnelling operations early next year. The Adaminaby Dam had been commenced. 

It was impossible for the Authority to do all of the work on its own and it was hoped to secure the assistance of other Government Departments and private contractors. The Department of Main Roads had already undertaken the reconstruction of main reads surrounding the area, the Public Works Department was undertaking the construction of the Adaminaby Dam, the W.C. & I.C. was still carrying out investigation work and the Mines Department was also assisting with surveys, etc. It was hoped to attract overseas contractors to assist in the tunnelling and other work. 

Headquarters of the scheme had been established at Cooma, the centre of the area of work, rather than in Sydney, and in due course when construction was commenced in earnest they would have a trained staff ready for action and thoroughly acquainted with the snow and weather conditions of the area.

One of the big problems facing the Authority was staff. They could not take too many key-men from other undertakings in Australia and they were recruiting men from England, New Zealand and the Continent.

They would have to make-do and adopt an intensive staff training scheme. The Snowy Mountains Hydro -Electric Scheme was the largest single engineering project yet under taken in Australia.

The water must be stored for Australia's future development and they had the courage and initiative to look forward in a few years to seeing the waters of the Snowy flowing into the Murray and Murrumbidgee Rivers, concluded Mr. Lang.

A vote of thanks was carried by acclamation on the motion of Messrs. A. L. Stacy and H. M. Woolley to Mr. Lang for his very able address. 

Those present were then given the opportunity of inspecting more closely the maps and diagrams which set out the details of the vast undertaking.

Accompanying Mr. Lang on his visit to Tumut were Messrs. T. J. Munro (Area Engineer) and Ramsay (Public Relations Officer).   Mr. Lang regretted that more de- tails of the work proposed at the Tumut end of the scheme could not be given as investigations had not been completed.