Wallsend during the 2007 Pasha storm.AFTER seven years of debate and false starts, a plan to save Wallsend from the next big flood is a step closer.

Newcastle council will open four options for public comment next month, but has endorsed one which recommends the removal of two bridges in what experts say is the best value for money option, costing $5.9 million.

Wallsend’s main commercial strip was smashed by a metre-deep torrent of fast-moving floodwater during the 2007 Pasha storm.

Later studies blamed the intense flood on debris blocking the culverts under the four bridges in Cowper, Tyrrell, Nelson and Boscawen streets. The town escaped any major flooding during last week’s deluge, but major flooding in the Wallsend CBD is regarded as a 1-in-10-to-15-year event.

The council’s first major flood mitigation report came down in 2009. It estimated that many lives would be lost in future floods, as well as predicting that buildings would wash away. But the cost of buying and moving vulnerable property was put at $44 million and beyond the reach of the council, which has since introduced warning and alert systems as the town’s only defence.

Among the possible options recommended by the latest report, the council favours one calling for the removal of bridges in Tyrrell and Boscawen streets, and not replacing them, and expanding the existing culvert. The Nelson Street bridge would be “enhanced” to accommodate more traffic.

Cr Jason Dunn said the option appeared to be the best way of minimising, if not eliminating, the flood risk, but he expressed concern at the impact on traffic in the town centre. He asked for a traffic study to identify potential problems before a final decision is made.

Cr Michael Osborne agreed, but said further consideration should also be given to widening the culvert under nearby Minmi Road. He said the report found that by doing so, flood levels in Nelson and Boscawen streets would be reduced by about 30 centimetres. Replacing the bridges would cost $8 million.

The bulk of the funding would come from the state government’s floodplain management scheme.

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