River Concerns Again Vented
February 16, 2001 Tumut & Adelong Times

Tumut River interest groups have turned out in force at a public forum to voice their concerns regarding high river flows.

The Murrumbidgee River Management Committee met in Tumut on Tuesday. In conjunction with their meeting they held a community forum, allowing concerns to be conveyed to Committee members to provide local knowledge concerning management issues relating to the river.

The Tumut River Landowners Association, Tumut Acclimatisation Society, Ron Bowden (Committee for Rehabilitation), Gilmore Landcare Association, Tumut Shire Council and the Canoe Club were among the 40 people which attended.

The meeting was chaired by Tumut Shire Deputy Mayor, Gene Vanzella. Whilst there were a host of different groups there was a common theme to their concerns -the high flows of the Tumut River in summer to cater for irrigators downstream.

Executive Officer of the Murrumbidgee River Management Committee, Jane Shields, said the various interest group shad listed various concerns. "Not surprisingly they concentrated on the. high flows in summer," Ms Shields said.

"Landholders noted the erosion caused by the high flows, fishing groups noted the affect it has on fish habitat and the potential loss of tourism was also highlighted. "Ms Shields said the committee took on board the comments and did have a potential solution.

"We are investigating the feasibility of en-route storages for irrigators down stream," Ms Shields said. "That would alleviate some of the problems put forward at Tumut on Tuesday. "We are only at the planning stage and there is a long way to go - we can't say for sure it will happen. "It's estimated an en-route storage would cost in the vicinity of $60-70 million.

Meanwhile, the Tumut River Landholders Association has requested that the committee ask Minister for Land and Water Conservation, Richard Amery, to visit Tumut to hear first hand local concerns. "I'm not sure what the committee feels about that," Ms Shields said.

"There was a feeling it was not the role of the committee to approach Mr Amery - perhaps it should be up to the TRLA.

"I know they have already approached Mr Amery without much success. "TRLA spokesperson Margaret Owen said the forum may not reap immediate benefits, but was another step in the process of highlighting the problems of the Tumut River.

"All we want is a moderate, even flow year round," Mrs Owen said. "If we don't get that the land degradation will continue, the fish habitat will decline further and that will have a flow on effects for the whole Tumut economy."

"At the moment members of our Association are considering the merits of obtaining a court injunction which would stop the high flows, "Whether we've got hells hope of obtaining that is another matter - we're willing to look at anything.

"Meanwhile, following the community forum the committee meeting was held, where its management plan was discussed. The plan will form the basis of future water resource management in the regulated river system of the Murrumbidgee Valley.

Among the issues discussed were the various other plans being prepared by other organisations.

"I know there are some concerns from the public about the number of plans "being developed for the Murrumbidgee," Ms Shields said.

"We are keeping the lines of communication open - on Tuesday we heard from the Murrumbidgee Catchment Board, who presented the targets from their plan.

Government funding for that plan was announced this week by Mr Amery. "The Plan is a long-term joint investment by government and the local community to address the. ecological and economic sustainability of this important region," said Mr Amery.

"This .includes $25.1 million over 15 years from the Carr Government, although the Federal Government has yet to announce matching funds. "I urge the Commonwealth to commit long-term funding to this plan to ensure the security and success of this very beneficial work.

"Significant community investment will amount to $236 million over the next 30 years. "Mr Thompson said the Murrumbidgee Land and Water Management Plan had been developed in response to a range of issues including rapidly rising water, tables, salinity, downstream flooding, pesticide levels in drainage water discharging to waterways, and a genuine desire to kick-start the correction of these outcomes.

"Many members of the community have worked hard to get the plan to this stage," said Mr Thompson. "And strategies contained in the Plan address a range of on-farm, district and regional issues.

"These include salinity, groundwater levels, water quality, ' biodiversity, farm business viability and structural adjustment. "Farm planning and changed agricultural practices will be key factors in implementing the plan, as will the strong partnership approach involving. the community and governments working together.

"The plan will be thoroughly monitored and reviewed over time so as to ensure all investments are made with a view to maximising any benefits. The Land and Water Management Plan proceeds has recently been reviewed by the NSW Healthy Rivers Commission, and consultants commissioned by the Victorian Department of Natural Resources and Environment and the Murray Darling Basin Commission.

"Both. were impressed with the technical assessment of plan proposals and the disciplined monitoring, reporting, audit; and review procedures involved," said Mr Amery.

"The issue of formal agreements between the NSW Government and the local communities and the use of irrigation corporations as the main implementation group were also praised.