Drought conditions force changes to Council’s unsealed road grading program

Friday 22 November, 2019

DUE to the ongoing severe drought impacting much of the Northern Rivers, Richmond Valley Council will postpone its scheduled unsealed road grading and move to a responsive maintenance program.

Council’s General Manager Vaughan Macdonald said water was a key ingredient in maintaining unsealed roads, and without the right amount of water, roads could be left worse off after grading.

Mr Macdonald said unsealed road grading relied on water to mix with the road pavement materials to ensure it was responsive to being smoothed and shaped.

He said with so little rain in recent months, conditions were now so dry unsealed road surfaces needed up to twice the usual amount of water during grading.

He said the usual water sources Council relied on to grade rural roads were either significantly lower or already dry.

“We have effectively been hit by a double whammy of drought conditions which have dried out our unsealed roads, and also reduced the amount of water available for carrying out scheduled road maintenance,” Mr Macdonald said.

Mr Macdonald said Council’s unsealed road grading program usually adhered to a schedule where roads were graded once or twice a year, or once every two years depending on the traffic volumes.

He said with long-range predictions of no significant rain until February, Council made the responsible decision to suspend its planned grading schedule.

“Council felt it was no longer a proper use of limited water resources to continue the program,” Mr Macdonald said.

“Instead, we will continue to maintain our unsealed roads with responsive maintenance works where needed.

“Road condition will be monitored by staff and roads or sections deemed urgent will be graded. We urge people who live or travel on unsealed roads to drive to the conditions.”

Mr Macdonald said Council recognised that rural communities appreciated the regular grading program, and apologised for any inconvenience this change may create.

More than half of the Richmond Valley is classified by the Department of Primary Industries as in intense drought – the most severe drought category. The remaining area is classified as in drought. Casino had no rain in November and less than 50mm in September and October combined.

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