Mur­ray dredg­ing on the rise


AL­MOST four mil­lion cu­bic me­tres of sand has been dredged from the Mur­ray Mouth this year, com­pared to about 2.5 mil­lion at the same time last year.

Keep­ing the Mur­ray Mouth open is vi­tal to the river sys­tem’s health, and one of the key goals of the Mur­ray-Dar­ling Basin Plan is to de­liver enough wa­ter to do that with­out dredg­ing 95 per cent of the time.

For now, two dredges are op­er­at­ing 24 hours a day.

Dredg­ing is done to make sure wa­ter flows in and out of the ocean, which al­lows salt to be flushed out and cooler, oxy- genated wa­ter to come in and keep the Coorong healthy.

The Mur­ray-Dar­ling Basin Plan has come un­der fire from all di­rec­tions this year.

There have been al­le­ga­tions of wa­ter theft by ir­ri­ga­tors, and a state royal com­mis­sion has heard from a range of wit­nesses ques­tion­ing the sci­ence be­hind the plan’s aim to save 3200 gi­gal­itres of wa­ter a year.

South Aus­tralia is at the end of the sys­tem and, there­fore, the most vul­ner­a­ble to re­duced wa­ter. The Lower Lakes, the Coorong and the Mur­ray Mouth are at the core of the con­cerns.

A month ago, a re­port from the Goyder In­sti­tute found the Coorong was “vul­ner­a­ble” and risked los­ing key el­e­ments that made it an in­ter­na­tion­ally im­por­tant wet­land. Al­gal blooms are af­fect­ing na­tive plants, in turn af­fect­ing the num­ber of wa­ter­birds.

At the time, Wa­ter Minister David Speirs said that while the Coorong had been on the brink of col­lapse dur­ing the Mil­len­nium drought, it was “slowly re­cov­er­ing”.

But a par­lia­men­tary re­port re­leased yesterday – the In­quiry into the Man­age­ment and use of Com­mon­wealth En­vi­ron­men­tal Wa­ter – also heard that in­creased flows to keep the Mouth open and the Coorong healthy in­creased the risk of flood­ing on pri­vate prop­erty as the wa­ter flowed through.

“There is no doubt that get­ting larger flows through the sys­tem is re­quired to move the body of sand that sits at the Mur­ray Mouth to keep the Mur­ray Mouth open,” Mur- ray-Dar­ling Basin Au­thor­ity spokesman Carl Bin­ning said in re­sponse to con­cerns about flood­ing, par­tic­u­larly from NSW land­hold­ers.

Rosa Mer­lino-Hil­lam, of the River Lakes and Coorong Ac­tion Group, said the Coorong was now look­ing “okay” but was still “in re­cov­ery”.

Late yesterday, Mr Speirs took his fed­eral coun­ter­part David Lit­tleproud on an aerial tour of the Coorong.

This comes ahead of a Min­is­te­rial Coun­cil meet­ing about the Mur­ray next week.

HIGH-PRO­FILE: Natasha Stott De­spoja and Julie Bishop. Pic­ture: KYM SMITH

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