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70 years since the Snowy Hydro

Michael talks to Darren Davis, Snowy Hydro Engineer, about the construction of the Snowy Hydro scheme which commenced 70 years ago this week.

As a means of offsetting the disastrous effects of droughts, the concept of diverting water from some of Australia’s best-known rivers – the Murray, Murrumbidgee, Snowy and Tumut Rivers – dates back as far as the 1880s.  

However, it was not until 1944 that a committee of Commonwealth and State representatives was formed to examine, from a broad, national viewpoint, the development of the water resources of the Snowy Mountains area.

On July 7 1949, the Commonwealth Parliament passed The Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Power Act 1949, which established the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority, the operating body of the Snowy Mountains Scheme.

Construction started on the Scheme on 17 October 1949, when the Governor-General, Sir William McKell, Prime Minister Ben Chifley and William Hudson fired the first blast at Adaminaby.

Construction was completed in 1974, for a total historical cost (funded by Commonwealth Government advances) of $820 million.

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