Elwood’s flooding problem

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By Cr Dick Gross

Elwood is prone to flooding. It was historically a swamp site as it is low lying land at the end of a water catchment. The area was drained in the late nineteenth century but flooding remains and an ever-present threat. On Sunday, April 10, flooding was again a prospect for Elwood residents

The Elwood Canal is part of the Elster (as in Elsternwick) Creek and its catchment. The catchment covers an area of?approximately 40 square kilometres of Melbourne’s inner south eastern suburbs,?extending from Elwood to Carnegie, Moorabbin to Brighton and everywhere in between. The Elster Creek catchment, as the name suggests, catches rainwater?that falls in this area and via the creek, carries this water?down to Port Phillip Bay.

There are several causes of the inundation.  Elwood’s low topology and the extensive catchment which funnels water into Elwood from Bentleigh and far beyond are the prime causes.  Also, during a storm, at high tide the water might surge into the mouth of the canal and flow over the walls causing flooding at places near Jerry’s Milk Bar in Barclay St. The canal is filled with large fields of concrete which look awful and hasten the flow of water from besieged Elwood.  When water from the upstream catchment hits storming water at high tide coming in from the bay, the infrastructure cannot cope with the water of two bodies colliding in Elwood.

It is a disaster that can only get worse as sea level rise from climate change.

The major problem for the City of Port Phillip is that we cannot solve the problem on our own.  Melbourne Water owns and controls the canal.  Parks Victoria controls the bay which could have protections like reefs. Bayside, Kingston and Glen Eira are municipalities with drains and flood mitigation opportunities which could help us.  It will take a lot of talking to get something to happen.

But that talking has commenced.  mayors and CEO’s from these councils have met separately and ready to act.  The Mayor and acting CEO were excited by the meetings.  A Water Sensitive Cities Research Unit has developed plans and strategies.  These strategies represent a unique opportunity to reshape the Elwood response to water.  All this will help us slowly grind out the answers to the flooding of Elwood.  But it will take a long time and lots of commitment to get answers.

The first test is coming up. Our neighbouring municipality, Bayside City Council, Victoria met April 26 to discuss the three options for the future of Elsternwick Park North. Each option incorporates different strategies for retaining, storing or diverting water that ends up on the streets and homes of Port Phillip. This is an issue of vital importance to our community.  Please take an interest because this will be an important first step to make Elwood and parts of St Kilda safer from flooding rains.

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