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Fish superhighway works take some big steps

Image from the side of an open weir with water running down it, and a crop and trees n the background.
28 Feb 2023

Work is set to begin on one of the final stages of a fish superhighway in north central Victoria, connecting more than 1000 kilometres of waterways.

The Gunbower and lower Loddon Fish Passage Works project is building eight new fishways and upgrading three to connect 530km of open Murray River to 560km of local waterways.

Over the years, fishways have been built on the Little Murray River, lower Loddon River and Box Creek, and recently two new fishways on Gunbower Creek at Cohuna and Koondrook.

Work will begin later this month on the construction of a fishway on the Taylor’s Creek Weir, just north of Ghow (Kow) Swamp, near the junction of the Torrumbarry Irrigation Area Number One Channel.

It will complete the loop for large-bodied fish, connecting the Murray River, Little Murray and Lower Loddon rivers, Pyramid, Taylors, and Gunbower creeks, and Ghow Swamp.

“For native fish to thrive, they need to be able to migrate up and down rivers, and these fishways enable them to do that,” North Central Catchment Management Authority (CMA) Major Projects Manager Tim Shanahan said.

“During fish migration events large numbers of native fish such as golden perch congregate at Taylors Weir. We need to give them the best chance possible to survive and breed despite the barriers we put in front of them, including weirs, climate change, and competition from pest species.”

The Taylor’s Weir fishway project has extra significance for golden perch.

“There are no large functional natural golden perch nurseries in Victoria, and this fishway project is a vital step toward Ghow Swamp becoming one,” Mr Shanahan said.

“Our Native Fish Recovery Plan includes a range of other proposals in the longer term to create improved conditions in the creek and the swamp, with its rich vegetation and perfect spot on the landscape, without impacting its current operations.”

Goulburn-Murray Water will manage the Taylors Weir fishway construction alongside a local contractor.

“Ghow Swamp is a place of archaeological and immense cultural significance for the Yorta Yorta Nation as well as wider Australia,” Mr Shanahan said. 

“North Central CMA and GMW staff will oversee the site throughout the construction works to ensure measures to protect cultural and environmental values are maintained.

“We’ve been working closely with Yorta Yorta Nation Aboriginal Corporation from the very beginning and that will continue throughout construction and operation.” 

The $6.5 million Taylor’s Creek project will begin by March and will be completed by December 2023. Works will not impact the delivery of irrigation water.

“Construction of fishways such as this will benefit the local community through increased recreational fishing opportunities and ecotourism opportunities,” Mr Shanahan said.

“Recreational fishing contributes to more than $307M annually to the regional economy in north-western Victoria.”

The remaining stages of the NFRP include a refinement of the Gunbower and Thompsons fishways and constructing fishways at Dehnes Regulator and at the National Channel at Torrumbarry Weir. 

The Taylor’s Creek fishway project is funded by the Victorian Government’s $2.7 billion Building Works package to support projects and jobs across Victoria as part of its COVID-19 economic recovery, and the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder’s Environmental Activities Framework.

Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder Dr Simon Banks said the Taylor’s Creek Fishway is an example of the complementary projects being rolled out across the Basin with on-ground partners.

“These activities help enhance the environmental benefit we can achieve with our water,” he said.

“We are excited to be a funding partner on this important project which will improve native fish migration from the Loddon through to the Gunbower system and other local tributaries.”