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Flood Report: Escaping river water contained

Escaping river water contained and focus is on building road to stopbank breach

For immediate release: Wednesday 21 July 2004, 10am Much of the water pushing out through a 100-metre wide breach in the Rangitaiki River’s stopbank is now returning to the river through several controlled cuts in the stopbank further downstream.

Environment Bay of Plenty is now building a road to allow access to the breach so it can be closed.

River Levels Rangitaiki River levels have stabilised at about 4m above normal levels. Yesterday, it was 5m above normal levels. There is still an enormous amount of floodwater on the Rangitaiki Plains generally. Last night’s rain has not impacted on water levels but the situation is being closely monitored.

Stopbank Breach A temporary road is being constructed to give heavy vehicles access to the breach in the Rangitaiki River stopbank above Edgecumbe. It will take all of today and until late tomorrow to complete the track, which runs through higher areas of the flooded farmland. Two quarries are sourcing materials (different types and sizes of rock) for the road and, when complete, to close up the 100-metre wide breach. Mr Fraser said today that many truckloads of fill will be needed for this “massive job”.

Escaping water About 25% of the Rangitaiki River’s flow is still pushing out through the breached stretch of stopbank just above Edgecumbe. The flow has formed a new “river” that runs parallel to the Rangitaiki River. Most of this water is now returning to the Rangitaiki River through two controlled cuts made further down the stopbank on its eastern side. “We are reasonably confident that much of what is coming out of the Rangitaiki River is now flowing back into it further down. That is a big improvement,” says Environment Bay of Plenty group manager community relations Bruce Fraser. Much of the escaping water is contained between the river and a stretch of low stopbank along Reid’s Canal. It is a band from ½ km to 2km wide passing through spillway and farmland. On Monday, Environment Bay of Plenty made a controlled cut through the eastern stopbank upstream of Butler’s Nursery in Thornton to allow water to flow from the Rangitaiki Plains and back into the river. Yesterday, two more cuts were made, one downstream of the Thornton bridge (which crosses the coastal road between Whakatane and Matata) and the other on Reid Central Canal. The cuts are working well. They can be closed off if necessary. Today, the cut below Thornton bridge is being deepened to allow more water to flow through it. Because of its depth, it will need to be blocked off when river levels rise at high tide. Huge railway containers will be used to do this job. “The doors will be closed at high tide and opened again when the water level falls,” Mr Fraser says.

Offers of support

Environment Bay of Plenty is very grateful for the many offers of practical support received from regional councils and other organisations throughout New Zealand in the last few days.

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