THE SNOWY MOUNTAIN SCHEME
The Snowy Mountains Scheme remains one of the greatest engineering feats in the world today but behind the story of engineering and construction is the story of the people who built the dream, the story of the people behind the power. This system's construction is seen by many as a defining point in Australia's history, and an important symbol of Australia's identity as an independent, multicultural and resourceful country.
Figure 1: The snowy mountain scheme
The Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme is the most complex, multi-purpose, multi-reservoir hydro scheme in the world. It consists of 16 major dams; 7 power stations; 1 pumping station; and 225 kilometres of tunnels, pipelines and aqueducts that were constructed between 1949 and 1974. An estimated of 100,000 people worked on the Scheme. Two-thirds of them were immigrants from over 40 countries around the world.
Why the scheme was built
Construction of the Snowy Mountains scheme was controlled by the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority. The scheme was started in 1949 and was finished in 1974, taking twenty-five years to complete and costing approximately A$820 million. At the launch of the project, the then Prime Minister Ben Chifley4 presented it as a national milestone - important for the drought relief it would bring to inland Australia, the power it would supply and for the ambitious size of the project. Because the project was more complex than anything that had been attempted before, engineers needed to develop new tunneling and construction methods that would change the industry around the world. Safer and cheaper construction techniques were created and the project set new standards in occupational health and safety. Two of the towns constructed for the schemes are now permanent; Cabramurra, the highest town in Australia; and Khancoban. Cooma flourished during construction of the Scheme and remains the...