Former dam workers returned to Wellington last week alongside family and officials to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Burrendong Dam and acknowledge the men who died during its construction.
Around 120 people attended the event held at Burrendong Dam which featured a small ceremony and wreath laying before attendees took a bus tour around the dam.
WaterNSW CEO, David Harris, unveiled a plaque that acknowledges the milestone and commemorates the five men killed during construction. Bishop Ian Palmer gave a blessing and students from Wellington Shire schools laid wreaths.
A spokesperson for WaterNSW said it was a good opportunity to recognise the contribution workers made.
“You men and your colleagues toiled in trying and sometimes dangerous conditions to make this project a reality,” the spokesperson said. “Many workers left family and friends to join the project.”
The rock-filled embankment captures water flowing from the Macquarie and Cudgegong Rivers and Meroo Creek. The rock wall is 1116 metres long and 76 metres high.
“Other local young men took up the opportunity and gained skills they took to other dam projects underway around the same time,” the spokesperson said.
“But it is more than merely a dam,” the spokesperson said.
”It provides the water security without which the Macquarie valley could not thrive and prosper as it has.”
The possibility of irrigation was first raised by wheat farmer William O’Neill in Narromine in 1893. A scheme for the construction of a dam at Burrendong in 1921 was delayed by the depression, to be revived from 1943-1945. Major floods in 1955 and 1956 saw amendments to the dam’s design to allow a greater flood mitigation capacity.
“At 85 per cent of capacity today, the storage level translates to 100 per cent allocation to irrigation customers, communities and the environment,” the spokesperson said. “This dam protects this valley while supplying the resource that drives its longevity and prosperity. That is the real legacy of the dam builders of 1967.”