Tumut River Is A 'Tragic Mess'
March 2, 2001 Tumut & Adelong Times
The Tumut River's 70 kilometre stretch has been transformed from a beautiful national icon to a tragic mess, according to one of the region's most respected fisherman.
Following last week's announcement that a top-level government scientific group is proposing to declare the Tumut River endangered, Ron Bowden says the river's role providing water for irrigators is doing untold damage to land and habitat.
"The Tumut River has been the victim of some incredibly poor planning which began 30 years ago - the Upper Murray and Snow Rivers suffered the same fate,' Mr Bowden said. "All three were essentially sacrificed for the Snowy Scheme. However, with the mounting public outcry some relief must be implemented to reverse these gross injustices."
High summer flows to accommodate irrigators needs downstream have caused widespread erosion, had a detrimental effect on the region's famous fishing industry whilst also harming native wildlife.
"Something needs to he done to ease the growing anger," Mr Bowden said. "Common sense demands that different arrangements for flow regimes be put in place."
Whilst the impact of high flows in the summer have been well documented, of equal concern are the corresponding low flows during the winter months, which hinder fish stocking efforts.
"We are all aware and very appreciative of the tremendous community service the Tumut Acclimatisation
Society is providing in hatching, rearing and buying fish for release in local waterways," Mr Bowden said. "This ultimately enhances fishing, striking a positive blow for tourism and local business."
"Most of the bred fish go into the waters in October-December period, with the Tumut River getting its fair share of these trout which are ideally suited to the cold waters.
"However, when the cut-off comes at the end of the irrigation season, and any cover having long been removed, the very low flow exposes not only the newly liberated fish but all fish to predators, such as cormorants and pelicans."
It's for this reason that a request for an environmental flow of 1500 megalitres during winter, up from the present 550 megalitres per day, has been made to relevant authorities.
The Institute of Freshwater Anglers, which represents 6000 freshwater fishers in NSW, has made a four page submission to the Minister for Land and Water Richard Amery supporting the concept of building downstream en-route storages. That would allow the Tumut River to carry not more than 6500 megalitres per day in the peak irrigation period, October to March.
The IFA submission points out that a saving can be made of close to $1 million, which is currently being spent on river works in response to problems caused by high-low flows.
The IFA submission also asks for restoration or building of rehabilitation structures such as rock gorges and some selected re-snagging to provide areas for aquatic life to take refuge from fast flows. It would also provide breeding and feeding grounds which have been stripped away in the past.
"The 1996 Tumut River strategy document did specify that in-stream wildlife would be considered," Mr Bowden said. "In fact no corrective or compensatory measures have been implemented, meaning all river wildlife such as fish, crayfish and platypus arc being denied suitable habitat in around 8(1-90 percent of the river during high flows."
A public petition noting local concerns with the management of the river has been circulating for the past 10 months and has attracted some 2000 signatures. "People are asking in this environmentally friendly age, why are such destructive practices allowed?," Mr Bowden said.
"There are those that believe that once a good habitat is established, everything else will fall into place - common sense says this is correct. There seems to me to be a long way to go before we reach that stage. Eyes which are wide shut must he opened. The denial over what has been done, and what is continuing to be done to the river, is no longer acceptable to the wider community"