River repair bill hits $1.5m

May 18, 2017

Robert Symons took this photo of the retaining wall on Thursday last week.

CAMPASPE Shire Council was last night expected to decide how to repair the badly damaged retaining wall along the Murray River at the Port of Echuca.

One option before the meeting — although not recommended by council staff — was to demolish the former Oscar W’s building.

But instead of knocking down what has been steeped in controversy since it was closed almost three years ago, council staff recommended a ‘‘Manta Ray’’ anchor, via a floating river barge, be installed allowing the building to remain.

Titled the riverside recovery option, it is expected to cost about $1.5 million, but council has already applied for $1 million in Federal Government funding.

‘‘However this option would require the use of a barge which may impact on the operations of the riverboats accessing the wharf and surrounding port area. Consequently riverboats may need to be temporarily relocated to an alternate location,’’ the report presented to council last night said.

Structural engineers said the original retaining walls located on the riverbank, behind the former Oscar W’s building, have ‘‘completely collapsed or are in a state of collapse’’ as a result of high river levels last year.

The other option, the one that wasn’t recommended, was that a ‘‘dead man’s anchor’’ be constructed on the Murray Esplanade side of the existing retaining wall.

Council staff said the benefits of this option (titled landside recovery) was a ‘‘simple construction method with low risk to deliver’’.

The cost was estimated to be more than $1.1 million, however, it would require the former Oscar W’s building be demolished to allow for construction.

‘‘The cost to demolish and reinstate a new building is likely to be in the order of twice that of a renovated Oscar W’s building, $1.5 million as opposed to $750,000,’’ the report said.

Officers have been working with Canberra on an application to the National Disaster Financial Assistance Fund (NDFA) incorporating a plan to recover the wall to a safe standard.

An initial estimate of $1.1 million has been applied in planning for the work.

Council staff said even if the NDFA does not cover the difference between the landward and riverside remediation, it was still in council’s interests to proceed with the riverside remediation and pay the difference.

This option was not recommended for a number of reasons including the use of Murray Esplanade as a works site would increase heavy traffic and negatively impact the Port of Echuca precinct and tourism businesses for a short-term period.

‘‘There would likely be additional risk and potential process implications, legal opinion would be required as to the impacts on the proposed lease of the existing building,’’ the report said.

It also said failing to undertake the works would result in the Oscar W’s building remaining empty for longer.

‘‘Vacancies within the Port of Echuca negatively impact the tourism experience and intangible impression,’’ the report said.

Council’s decision was made after the Riverine Herald went to print last night. More in Friday’s edition.

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