Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Saltwater Creek renamed Crystal Creek

In 1935, Saltwater Creek was renamed Crystal Creek, in an effort to make the area more appealing to tourists. It was also hoped the change of name might help to garner public support for an expensive scheme to source the city’s water
from Mt Spec.
View of Crystal Creek (formerly called Saltwater Creek) and arched bridge, 1957.
Photo: Fred Carew, held by Townsville City Libraries.
At a special meeting of the City Council in late November 1935, it was decided by majority vote that “no further expenditure in the development of the Ross River Water Supply Scheme be undertaken, other than maintenance of the existing works.”

The motion further provided that the “Saltwater Creek Gravitation Scheme be adopted as Townsville’s future water supply”, as soon as money was available.

The scheme, which was put forward by Mr J. Mulholland, of the Water and Irrigation Department, involved the construction of an 84km pipeline and a rock-fill storage dam at an estimated cost of £639,000.
Near the source of Saltwater Creek, March 1922.
Photo: City Libraries Townsville.
During spirited discussion of the motion, Alderman Keyatta argued that: “it would be unwise to spend further money on the Ross River”.

“Even the expenditure of £113,000 for another weir would be a sheer waste of money,” he said.

“The Council should now conserve its finances for the Saltwater Creek Scheme.”

Alderman Keyatta’s opinion was based on the assumption that considerable savings over time could be made by adopting the Saltwater Creek Scheme - which was based on gravitation - instead of expanding the costly system of pumping which was in operation at the Ross River.

Alderman Hayes, who was in favour of the scheme, remarked: “Then we will have water, not muddy slush like we get now.”

But the name of the scheme – Saltwater – implied that the water was salt- rather than fresh- water and the concern was that ratepayers might be opposed to the scheme on that basis.

Alderman Hayes assured those at the meeting that tidal (salt) water had never reached more than 450 metres beyond the railway bridge.

In March of that year, a deputation from the Townsville branch of the RACQ and the Townsville and District Development Association approached the Minister for Labor and Industry, Mr M.P. Hynes, about the possibility of changing Saltwater Creek’s name to Crystal Creek. The Minister agreed that the name was rather misleading to tourists, as “excellent water was obtainable in the creek”.
Upper Saltwater falls source, March 1922.
Photo: City Libraries Townsville.
The water situation in Townsville at that time had reached a crisis point, with only 238mm of rain falling by December. This was the lowest rainfall on record since 1870.

Despite the potential for panic, the Mayor, Alderman J.S. Gill, thought the Council should first wait and see how well the new weir on the Ross River would serve the city. He urged the aldermen not to rush into a scheme that would “put a mill stone around the necks of the people”.

The Mayor believed that the Ross River would provide sufficient water for Townsville for the next 10 to 15 years, “even if the population doubled”.

Alderman Gill felt that instead of rushing into the Saltwater Creek Scheme, the Council should investigate the matter more fully.

Alderman Hayes retorted impatiently: “And spend 50 years on it.”

Not to be outdone, Alderman Gill snapped back with: “We will all be dead in that time.”

It was December 1954 before water from Crystal Creek was connected to Townsville. 

Monday, 14 March 2016

Pipeline of Prosperity for Magnetic Island

In 1970, Magnetic Island became the first Queensland off-shore island to receive a water supply from the mainland, when an 8km-long submarine pipeline was laid from Rowes Bay to Cockle Bay, on the south-eastern side of Magnetic Island.

Locals watch on from the Rowes Bay foreshore as the first section of pipeline for the water supply to Magnetic Island is towed out to sea and manoeuvered into place, February 1970.
Photo: Townsville City Libraries.
Work on the ambitious project began in August 1969, and at times required divers to work in water depths of up to 9 metres. To mitigate the risks associated with sharks, a spokesman for the contractor told the Townsville Daily Bulletin that precautions would be in place for the divers, possibly in the form of protective cages.

According to the Bulletin, the original contractor who had tendered to lay the pipe for $258,000 within a timeframe of six months - “abandoned” the project shortly after work commenced.

When the city council took over the work, they decided to use six-inch PVC pipe instead of the 9-inch pipe made of asbestos cement that was originally planned. PVC was chosen for the pipeline because it was lightweight and flexible and was expected to last for up to 150 years.

By June 1970 the pipeline was nearing completion, albeit a few months behind schedule. Tides and wind conditions dictated the speed of the work, and an extra 900 metres of pipe had to be added to the length of the pipeline because it proved impossible to cut through the reefs of Cockle Bay.

A water supply for the island also required additional infrastructure to be built on the island itself. This involved the construction of 24 km of pressure and reticulation mains and storage reservoirs at Picnic Bay, Nelly Bay and Arcadia. The three reservoirs could each hold 1.9 million litres, and once fully operational, would supply approximately 600 residences.

After experiencing two years of drought, the pipeline was welcome news for island residents, since many people had resorted to buying water from the mainland and having it transported to the island at considerable expense.

Others hoped that supplying water to the island would trigger a boom on the island, in the form of increased tourism and housing.

Mr Charles Thomas, president of the Magnetic Island Tourist Association told the Bulletin in February 1970 that he doubted if many people on the island realised just how much (the) water would mean to them.

“The island will grow up overnight,” Mr Thomas said.

Mr Thomas believed that within four years, development on the island would have quadrupled, with island residents commuting to the city for work, and the opening up of investment opportunities on the island.

In May 1970, the Bulletin reported that it was “widely predicted” that completion of the reticulated water scheme would set off a building spree on the island.

“According to reports, many people holding land on the island are only waiting for the water connection to start building,” the Bulletin noted.

However, the newspaper pointed out that at least one factor that would limit such a spree was that the land available for building was limited, since three quarters of the island was National Park.

“The area with the greatest potential for residential sites appears to be Horseshoe Bay. The extensive flat land at Horseshoe Bay once supported a substantial pineapple industry… which has now become virtually extinct.”

Waterfront allotments at that time were selling for up to $8,000.