Supporting critical Australian infrastructure

A defining moment in Australian history

From its earliest days, Allens has been part of some of the most transformative moments in history. On 17 October 1949 Australia commenced what is still considered one of the nation's largest and most ambitious engineering projects – the Snowy Mountains Scheme.

story_snowy-hydro.jpgThe Snowy Mountains Scheme was originally designed to irrigate farming land to the west of the Great Dividing Range but the engineers realised it had the potential to generate hydroelectricity by directing the water through a series of power stations as it plunged 800 metres down the escarpment. This would help solve the country's power shortage, an increasing problem with the growth of manufacturing and the post-war population boom.

After nearly two decades of depression and war, the Snowy Mountains Scheme was a symbol of optimism, reshaping Australia socially, economically and politically. Over 100,000 people worked on the construction, many of them immigrants from over 30 different nations.

Allens worked behind the scenes, advising American group Kaiser-Walsh-Perini-Raymond (Kaiser) which was awarded the contract for construction of the 2.5-kilometre Eucumbene-Tumut tunnel and the Tumut Pond dam. At a cost of £25,296,586, this was the largest contract for any public undertaking in Australia at the time. Kaiser revolutionised engineering in Australia, consistently breaking tunnelling records and completing projects ahead of schedule.

One of the biggest challenges the Allens team faced during the project was communicating with Kaiser in Cooma. At that time, in order to dispatch a telephone call between Sydney and Cooma, articled clerks had to coordinate no less than eight telephone exchanges to ensure the call could be patched through.

The Snowy Mountains plan is the greatest single project in our history. It is a plan for the whole nation, belonging to no one State nor to any group or section.

Prime Minister Ben Chifley, May 1949

Despite all the challenges, Kaiser's work ethic and the commitment of the workforce saw construction progress at a rapid rate. In June 1956, Kaiser took over construction of the Adaminaby Dam (later called Eucumbene Dam), one of the biggest dams in Australia and one of the largest earth-rockfill dams in the world. Many overseas contractors refused to tender for the work, believing the four-year timeframe was unachievable. Kaiser completed the project in under two years.

It took 25 years to complete the 16 dams, seven power stations, one pumping station and 225 kilometres of tunnels, pipelines and aqueducts that formed the Snowy Mountains Scheme.

Seventy years on, Allens' work with the project continues, assisting Snowy Hydro Ltd with Snowy 2.0, a multi-billion dollar pumped hydro storage project. The project will increase capacity of the Snowy Hydro Scheme by almost 50 per cent to more than 6,000 megawatts, enabling greater security and stability of electricity supply and paving the way for additional future investment in Australia's renewable sector.

Images: Constructing the Snowy Mountains Scheme
Images courtesy of Snowy Hydro Ltd

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