October 2010

Paddling Barmah attempt #1

19.10.2010 - Posted by Misko Ivezich
Last Thursday 13 of us headed up to Murray River in an attempt to paddle around Barmah National Park that is flourishing after the wet winter. Numerous flood and storm warnings had been issued but being intrepid adventurers and equipped with a thorough safety plan, we decided to take our chances with mother nature. We spent Thursday night at Red Gum Retreat on Ulupna Island. At about 1am the torrential rain began and did not let up for many hours. As day broke, we saw a gap in the weather and headed off to collect our kayaks. However Goulburn Broken CMA advised us against getting in the water early Friday morning. So we abandoned our kayaking plans and walked through the very damp forest for a couple of hours instead.

In the afternoon, Keith Ward, an ecologist and the Environmental Water Reserve Manager at GBCMA, gave us a fascinating presentation on the Barmah-Millewa forest, the largest River Red Gum forest in the world. Keith shared with us some of the history of the forest, including the formation of the system resulting from the rise of the Cadell Fault to its extensive post-European logging history. He also shared some of the challenges of managing an internationally recognised wetland under a highly regulated and water scarce environment. The forest is one of the lucky ones though, the floodplain is highly water shedding - so floodwaters essentially re-enter the river system at the downstream end. This provides opportunities for wetland watering from environmental water or irrigation water being delivered further downstream.

A wet Barmah forest

VAGO report – Restricting Environmental Flows during Water Shortages

8.10.2010 - Posted by Kane Travis
The Victorian Auditor General has just released is audit findings on the effectiveness of the Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE), water corporations and catchment management authorities (CMA) in managing temporary restrictions on surface water rights to meet critical needs, including steps to minimise river health damage.

The report examines the strength of the advice and information DSE and water corporations used to justify restricting water rights. It also examines how the effectiveness of these restrictions was assessed, and how DSE, water corporations and CMAs managed the environmental risks on three rivers—the Tarwin, Wimmera and Yarra.

Overall the findings found that DSE and two of the three water corporations examined did not effectively manage restrictions to environmental water rights.

A comprehensive report of the findings and recommendations can be downloaded by clicking here.

River Health Program Report Card released

8.10.2010 - Posted by Kane Travis
The Department of Sustainability and Environment has just released its report card tracking the Government’s progress on river health targets. The report card provides an overview of the achievements from the Victorian CMA’s and Melbourne Water from 2002 to 2009.

The report acknowledges the successes in river health programs through the combined efforts of government, industry and community. Some of the key highlights include:
  • From 2002–2009, 402 gigalitres of water was recovered and added to the Environmental Water Reserve, improving environmental flows in 71 river reaches;
  • Conducting works to allow fish to move into approximately 7,900km of rivers and streams which included removing obstructions and building fishways at over 150 locations;
  • 7,066 km of rivers and streams have been fenced protecting them from stock access;
  • More than 600 groups, comprising 2,300 volunteers, regularly monitor rivers over 1,900 sites across the state.
The 2002 – 2009 has been a good period to build a solid base of river health works and outcomes. Moving forward into the next period of delivery I think we face a number of key challenges.
  • Recurrent funding – The restoration of our rivers is a very long term program than requires long term commitment from government. Our funding mechanisms need to evolve to provide confidence for organisations like CMA’s in the continuity of funds so they can plan more effectively and retain staff.
  • Higher investment into maintenance – Politicians seem to be driven by the numbers of new things, such as, the length of new fences or number of new trees. So often we see projects that will never realise their potential due to a lack of maintenance. The next 7 years need to provide adequate funds and direction to significantly reinvest in areas that have had previous works.
  • Legislative stick – There is only so far that good will and tireless community engagement can achieve. We need to develop stronger legislative tools to dealing with impacts on waterways where good will fails.
Read the report here.

Lake Hindmarsh

6.10.2010 - Posted by
Recently my partner and I went away for the weekend up to the Wimmera to take a look at Lake Hindmarsh. Lake Hindmarsh is Victoria's largest freshwater body stretching over more than 20 kilometres. The lake hasn’t been filled since 1996, but this year, for the second year in a row, water from the Wimmera River is flowing into the lake which is such good news for the local bird life and river red gums. We started at the southern end of the lake at Jeparit and walked out to the water’s edge. There was water as far as the eye could see – and quite muddy too! We then drove to the northern end at Rainbow but sadly the water hasn’t made it there as yet.

We stayed in Warracknabeal for two nights and spent some time exploring the Yarriambiack creek. The creek had overflowed its banks but the water was so calm and glassy that all the vegetation was beautifully reflected in the water. Certainly not the image of a dusty Wimmera town that I had imagined.

Waters edge at Lake Hindmarsh – Jeparit

Yarriambiack Creek

Coorong Calling

5.10.2010 - Posted by Ross Hardie
Alluvium founders and directors Ross Hardie and Chris Arnott have recently returned from South Australia and the first intensive of the inaugural Peter Cullen Trust Science to Policy Leadership Program. Ross and Chris were selected by the Peter Cullen Trust to participate in the program with 13 other outstanding applicants from around Australia, including Dr Geoff Vietz, an Alluvium alumnus.

The program is run as 2 x 1 week intensive sessions, the first in South Australia, the second scheduled for Canberra in November 2010. The South Australia intensive included a field based 2 day and 2 night experiential learning session on the Coorong at the mouth of the Murray River. The aim of experiential learning is for participants to operate outside their comfort zones! According to the organisers, it is when we operate outside our comfort zones we achieve our greatest learnings.

We learnt about leadership styles and our influence on others. I leant that I should relax a little more, not always try to control outcomes, and to take a few leaps into the unknown. This was also an opportunity to meet a great and diverse group of future leaders wanting to have an influence on the way we manage our natural resources. From my perspective the experience was revealing, challenging, a bit scary and on reflection, fun!

Ross getting a little animated during a debrief session

Chris, at the end of a morning paddle on the Coorong