DARTMOUTH Dam will almost certainly spill in the next three months, for the first time since 1996.
The rare event could spell disaster for landowners in the dam’s path and below Lake Hume, especially with above-average rainfall expected this month and in the first two months of spring.
With the dams already high, Murray River Action Group chairman Richard Sargood fears a major flood similar to one in 1974.
Dartmouth is 6.2 per cent higher than a year ago at 97.2 per cent and Lake Hume has risen almost 20 per cent in a month to 85.2 per cent.
“We are staring down the barrel of a major flood,” Mr Sargood said.
“Hume will be full by the end of the month.
“Dartmouth is already 97 per cent and will creep up slowly.”
He said the next three months were usually our wettest and the weather bureau was expecting above-average rainfall.
“Landowners from Hume to Yarrawonga face disruption.”
A senior Murray-Darling Basin Authority official, Joe Davis, will talk to group members on Wednesday about how Lake Hume will be managed. There will be a second meeting the next night at Eskdale, for landowners.
Dartmouth is 1.6 metres from spilling. If it does, it will be only the seventh time it has happened since the dam was commissioned in 1979.
Inflows have peaked at 8000 megalitres a day and were expected to drop to 5000 within a week. The level was expected to remain in the high 90s.
Dartmouth’s manager Peter Liepkalns said: “There is certainly a chance of it spilling, greater than any time since 1996.”
“Our outflows will roughly correspond with inflows, at least for the next fortnight — unless, of course, we get a hell of a rain event,” he said.
Another 32 millimetres of rain fell at Wangaratta on Wednesday and minor flood warnings were issued for the King, Buffalo, Ovens, Kiewa and Mitta rivers yesterday.
Wangaratta-based weather forecaster John Moore expected “substantial” rainfall in the next few weeks.
“The risk of flooding is fairly high,” Mr Moore said.
“The way things have been going in the mountains, 75 millimetres each month is not out of the question.
“In the lower areas, the ground is not as saturated as it was last year so there is a bit of room to soak up more.
“But we’ve got our three wettest months of the year to come.”