RIVER CON­CERN

FEARS FOR EN­VI­RON­MEN­TAL IM­PACT TO GOUL­BURN FROM HIGH FLOWS

Shepparton News - - FRONT PAGE - By Thomas Moir

An en­vi­ron­ment group is wor­ried the health of the Goul­burn River is con­tin­u­ing to de­cline, that high sum­mer flows are caus­ing dam­age and un­der­min­ing ben­e­fits from en­vi­ron­men­tal flows.

And the Goul­burn Val­ley En­vi­ron­ment Group fears recre­ational and tourism uses of the river too may suf­fer.

Mean­while, Shep­par­ton fish­ing stake­holder Steve Threlfall said if the ‘‘anatomy of the river’’ was com­pro­mised, the flow-on ef­fect could un­der­mine recre­ational uses of the river.

A Goul­burn Bro­ken Catch­ment Man­age­ment Author­ity spokesper­son said flows were ex­pected to range be­tween 2000 ML/day to 3000 ML/day over the next few months.

Given these are ‘‘well above the rec­om­mended 800 ML/day for this time of the year’’, the author­ity has asked the river op­er­a­tors to de­liver the wa­ter as a series of pulses through the lower Goul­burn River to help min­imise dam­age to the river bank.

The Goul­burn Val­ley En­vi­ron­ment Group re­mains con­cerned that the health of the Goul­burn River is con­tin­u­ing to de­cline, ar­gu­ing high sum­mer flows were caus­ing dam­age and un­der­min­ing im­prove­ments gained by re­cent years’ en­vi­ron­men­tal f lows.

The group wor­ries that recre­ational and tourism uses of the river too may suf­fer.

One fish­ing fig­ure says if the ‘‘anatomy of the river’’ was com­pro­mised, the flow-on ef­fect could un­der­mine recre­ational uses of the Goul­burn River.

A spokesper­son from the Goul­burn Bro­ken Catch­ment Man­age­ment Author­ity said flows were ex­pected to range be­tween 2000 ML/day to 3000 ML/day dur­ing the next few months.

‘‘As the flows are well above the rec­om­mended 800 ML/day for this time of the year, GBCMA has asked the river op­er­a­tors to de­liver the wa­ter as a series of pulses through the lower Goul­burn River, rather than a steady f low, to help min­imise dam­age to the river bank,’’ they said.

High un­sea­sonal flows in the lower Goul­burn River con­tin­ued to be de­liv­ered to meet down­stream wa­ter de­mands from towns, ir­ri­ga­tors and the en­vi­ron­ment, the author­ity added.

GVEG has sug­gested a num­ber of ur­gent ac­tions, in­clud­ing im­ple­ment­ing a max­i­mum sea­sonal vol­ume for flows through the Goul­burn River.

‘‘There has to be a ceil­ing,’’ group pres­i­dent John Pet­ti­grew said, adding ac­tion was ur­gent, point­ing to re­cent years’ high f lows.

Aside from the po­ten­tial to un­der­mine en­vi­ron­men­tal ben­e­fits, Mr Pet­ti­grew said river health and wa­ter qual­ity would be first ar­eas im­pacted.

‘‘The end re­sult, if we let this grow and con­tinue . . . we’ll lose that in-stream health, aquatic recre­ation will be af­fected.’’

Shep­par­ton fish­ing in­dus­try stake­holder Steve Threlfall be­lieved un­sea­sonal high flows down­stream that were pro­longed for more than three weeks posed the most con­cern for river banks and habi­tat.

‘‘That con­stant high-level wa­ter flow has an ef­fect on our veg­e­ta­tion,’’ Mr Threlfall said.

‘‘That bit just above the wa­ter . . . (it’s) now con­stantly at higher lev­els . . . for long pe­ri­ods and it’s killing it off.

‘‘That is the nurs­ery for all good things that hap­pen in the river. We have to have f lows that peak and drop back to a nat­u­ral level.’’

Mr Threlfall said he had ob­served sand­bars un­der wa­ter dur­ing this sum­mer pe­riod.

And while he said the higher wa­ter lev­els were yet to pose a se­ri­ous im­pact on fish­ing — ‘‘it’s still fish­ing quite well’’ — he said it would pose a longterm ef­fect on the anatomy of the river.

‘‘We can stock it (with fish) . . . but they rely on food sources, the en­vi­ron­men­tal sys­tem to be able to have that grow out pe­riod,’’ he said.

‘‘It doesn’t help res­i­dent fish in their breed­ing cy­cles.’’

The GBCMA spokesper­son said the author­ity was work­ing with DELWP to un­der­stand and quan­tify po­ten­tial en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pacts of un­sea­sonal river f lows due to trade.

This in­cludes ad­di­tional mon­i­tor­ing this sum­mer.

Last month, the GBCMA said ad­di­tional fund­ing and sup­port was be­ing ex­plored to de­velop a new lower Goul­burn River f lows study and long-term en­vi­ron­men­tal mon­i­tor­ing pro­gram to in­ves­ti­gate the ef­fects of un­sea­sonal high f lows on river banks, wa­ter qual­ity, na­tive fish and veg­e­ta­tion.

Mr Pet­ti­grew wel­comed re­cent ‘‘puls­ing’’ of wa­ter as be­ing all part of the broad an­swer.

Last year a holis­tic re­view into the im­pacts of run­ning com­mer­cial wa­ter down the river in sum­mer was en­dorsed as a res­o­lu­tion at the na­tional con­fer­ence of the Mur­ray Dar­ling As­so­ci­a­tion.

Cr Den­nis Pat­ter­son had at the time voiced con­cern longer pe­ri­ods of higher wa­ter in the Goul­burn River were caus­ing sig­nif­i­cant dam­age to river banks and habi­tat.

In call­ing for ac­tion to be taken, he and the coun­cil moved a mo­tion at the MDA na­tional con­fer­ence that pushed for wa­ter min­is­ters and wa­ter au­thor­i­ties to in­ves­ti­gate en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pacts of run­ning com­mer­cial wa­ter down the Goul­burn River dur­ing sum­mer pe­ri­ods.

This came af­ter the coun­cil ar­gued he river had risen about 1.5 m above its nor­mal sum­mer level last Fe­bru­ary, and stayed at this height for about two months, ‘‘de­stroy­ing all the ground cover that had ben­e­fited from an en­vi­ron­men­tal flow dur­ing spring 2017’’.

‘‘The river was ar­ti­fi­cially held high in these sum­mer months due to the trans­fer of wa­ter to other ir­ri­gation ar­eas fol­low­ing pur­chas­ing of this wa­ter, rais­ing con­cerns about river bank ero­sion,’’ an ar­gu­ment to the con­fer­ence read.

Steve Threlfall

Pic­tures: Rod­ney Braith­waite

Wor­ried: Shep­par­ton fish­ing in­dus­try stake­holder Steve Threlfall.

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