Local resident Edna Dunning reminisced:
“When the floodwaters came down my first job on arriving home from school was to take off my shoes and socks and go down to rescue the chooks off their perch….. The floodwaters would spread across the paddocks, bringing with them oranges, lemons, paddy melons, cabbages, timber and the population would be out in force to see the flowing water.” (1983 H&GHS Journal)
A flood mitigation bill was passed by Parliament in 1917 to combat the damage caused by the floods and address the health risk raised because of the lack of mains sewerage in the western suburbs. The Chief Engineer of the Department of Works, Mr. J H O Eaton recommended a cutting through the sand dunes at Henley South providing an artificial outlet to the sea. Opponents to this scheme, the ‘Torrens Floodwaters Vigilance Committee’ considered the proposal was likely to cause grave injury to those properties used for fruit and market gardening – which relied on water from the River Torrens.
Thus the initial bill lapsed with no action being taken. A similar bill was passed in 1923 but again lapsed due to a lack of commitment. Following major floods in 1931 and 1933, the “Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works” recommended the original proposal for a direct outlet for the river at Henley South be created at an estimated cost of £360,000 – $36m in today’s currency.
Construction began in 1935 with the diversion of the Torrens River at Lockleys, and a new channel dug to the sea, through the high Henley South sand hills – providing an artificial mouth for the river – now known as the Torrens Outlet.
The creation of Breakout Creek and the outlet was a major civil engineering work taking three years to complete, requiring:
- cutting through the sand hills, up to 12 metres high
- removal of over 76,500 cubic metres of sand equivalent to over 76 Olympic Swimming pools
- construction of a reinforced concrete channel
- driving more than 200 Tonnes of steel piles into the ground
- 878 timber piles, each 6 metres long
- pouring of 13,000 Tonnes of concrete
- building an extension of Seaview Road to West Beach
- building a concrete bridge over the channel – 45 metres long and 10 metres wide
When finished in 1937, the problem of regular flooding in the western suburbs was overcome. The reeds and lagoons, once a haven to prolific species of wildlife providing an abundance of food to local tribes gave way to local road infrastructure developments, connecting the small villages dotted along the few roads. Housing development throughout the region followed after the end of World War 2.
Image credit: Henley & Grange Historical Society