Ben Taylor was seven years old when he saw the Murray River reach record highs in Riverland in 1974.
- Farmers fear their power will be cut off as the Murray River rises
- SA government says it is pressuring SA Power Networks to provide better communication and discretion
- Authorities will move a group of vulnerable elderly residents from Renmark this week
“I just remember seeing the huge expanse of flood water at the time,” he said.
“As a kid, that wasn’t too much of a concern for me.”
Now he views rising floodwaters with a different eye, as water levels have surpassed 1974 highs and are only expected to rise.
“There’s a lot of anxiety,” he said.
“People are getting quite nervous because of the rising waters.
“Everyone’s talking all the time, wherever you go, ‘Where do you think it’s going to culminate’?”
Mr Taylor, an almond farmer and business owner near Berri, has his own concerns about the inbound impacts of rising floodwaters.
His farm is close to the booming Murray River and his pumping station that draws water from the river to power his crops is at risk of being closed.
“It would be terrible, it would jeopardize the harvest as soon as there was no more day of water.
“It’s going to affect tree harvesting right now.”
Mr Taylor said his pumping station was higher than other stations nearby and was asking SA Power Networks to carry out case-by-case investigations when it came to switching off customers, to help reduce financial blows for farmers.
“We had a very difficult season this year, with lots of late rains and La Niña cycles,” he said.
“Riverland producers in particular are calling for a normal season. »
He said he was offered $100,000 to keep a generator running for two months if the power goes out at his pumping station.
“There are funds for people who need to buy generators for irrigation,” he said.
“But that’s really a drop in the ocean compared to what some growers have to spend to mitigate that risk.”
Paul Roberts of SA Power Networks said the ability to perform case-by-case analysis diminishes with time and rapidly rising flood waters.
Prime Minister Peter Malinauskas said the government had pressured SA Power Networks to avoid disconnecting properties when unnecessary and to provide “more active communication” with affected residents.
“We just ask South Australian Power Networks not to turn off the power unless absolutely necessary and where you do give as much warning as possible,” he said.
“It is clear that safety must come first, but as long as it can be a more discreet exercise, it is something that we are actively acting and lobbying for.
Some elderly residents will be evacuated
Meanwhile, authorities will begin relocating a group of Renmark’s most vulnerable elderly residents this week.
Riverland Mallee Coorong Local Health Network chief executive Wayne Champion said the “first phase of its relocation plan” would be enacted for the Renmark Paringa Hospital aged care facility.
This phase will see 21 of the most vulnerable residents relocated from Tuesday.
“Over the past 24 hours, the height of the river has reached the level that SA Health says would require a planned phased relocation of the most vulnerable residents,” Mr Champion said.
The hospital is close to a dyke which has been identified as needing urgent work, which was completed last month.
Mr Champion said the work on the sea wall “gives us the opportunity to gradually relocate these residents as a precautionary measure”.
“Riverland Mallee Coorong LHN has great confidence in the work Renmark Paringa District Council has done to strengthen the hospital embankment,” he said.
“However, we have a number of vulnerable elderly care residents with reduced mobility in the elderly care facility at Renmark Paringa District Hospital who would be difficult to evacuate quickly, with staged relocation the far preferred option.”
The aged care facility has 81 residents.
Mr Champion said residents would be transferred to other facilities in the local Riverland Mallee Coorong Health Network and their families had been contacted.
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