Wilcannia’s wet, next stop Menindee Lakes
Friday, 6th March, 2020
By Callum Marshall
A flowing Darling/Baaka has finally made its way to Wilcannia with locals watching eagerly as water came into town yesterday while Menindee gears up for the river’s water to reach them soon.
Early yesterday morning news came through that the flowing river had reached Steamers Point, with Wilcannia River Radio’s Anthony Schembri telling the BDT that Wilcannia weir got the water not long after.
“Someone came up to me about 9am and said it was at Steamers Point,” he said.
“And about 10-10:30am it got to the weir.”
Mr Schembri said locals had been heading down to the river all morning to catch a glimpse of the water passing by.
“There’s a whole heap of people down at the river, watching it fill up,” he said. “Most of the community. It’s a good feeling.
“People that work at the Shire or at the hospital, ambulance, fire brigades, they’re all there.
“I’ll get down there at lunchtime and have a look.
“I heard there was eight metres coming down.
“We’ve (also) had two days of solid rain here which’ll soak up the ground there a bit.”
There was a lot of positivity around town at the moment, he said.
“People are happy, people are down there (at the river.) There’ll probably be a couple of barbecues today,” said Mr Schembri.
“It’ll be good for the weekend anyway. I know that there’ll be people who go down there and start fishing.
“They’ll be fishing there this afternoon or tomorrow morning.”
Further down the river, Menindee residents are getting ready to see a flowing Darling/Baaka, which will hopefully fill up the lakes well.
For Graeme McCrabb, who’s been working hard to relocate native fish into aerated zones, the important thing to consider was properly protecting the fish from sludgy waters within the first flush.
“There’s quite a large aerator that’s been installed in Lake Wetherell just above the main weir,” he said.
“So that’ll remain as long as the weather holds out and that can be retrieved without too much stress.
“That aerator should provide a half kilometre or so refuge for those fish.
“That’s a really good start, and probably a good initiative by DPI-Fisheries to have that in there.
“And really at the end of the day there’s not much else that can be done.
“I think the water will be held in Lake Wetherell until the oxygen level comes up.”
The relocated fish, combined with the expected river water, would provide a positive outcome for those native fish, he said.
“The fish that have been relocated from below weir 32, which looked in a lot of trouble probably only three weeks ago, now (looks like) at least it’s going to have water.
“There’s a large aerator in the Menindee weir pool, which will help those.”
Mr McCrabb said what was really important, for now and into the future, was allowing the river to run properly for critical human and environmental need.
“There’s been some fish kills up around Brewarrina, not anywhere near the numbers we had here last year,” he said.
“But it highlights the importance that we have to have continued flows down the river.
“First flushes are a last resort - we don’t want to end up with not having running pools coming down the river.
“If we have to resort to first flushes then we’re going to have fish kills on the back of those in the future.
“If we get by anyway with this one then that’s great but in the future we need to avoid (that.)”
With the town also getting some good rainfall this week, Mr McCrabb said the overall feeling in town was positive.
“There’s a bit of an upbeat vibe today in the street,” he said.
“We’ve had around 30mm of rain, pretty consistent through the area.
“That’s a really good start and then obviously water coming down.
“So, super exciting particularly on the back of those relocated fish.”
He guessed that it would probably be around March 15 that the river’s flows would reach the weir pool at Lake Wetherell.
“It will be about the 7th or 10th to reach the top of Wetherell and then another few days to get to Menindee,” said Mr McCrabb.
“And then a few days to wait to let some water through into our weir pool to freshen that up.
“It’s nice to be talking about water flowing down the river rather than dead fish.”
Mr McCrabb thanked volunteers who came out to help relocate fish and keep native fish populations going during the dry summer months.
“In February, there was a lot of worry with the weir pool dropping and that we were just going to run out of water for the fish by the middle of the year,” he said.
“And (that) the ones that have been relocated would die anyway.
“But there’s been quite a few people from Broken Hill and Menindee relocating fish and they’ve done a terrific job with it.
“I think it’s reward for their effort to have some water coming down.
“Pamamaroo is starting to look like it has a chance to have some water in it which would be outstanding for Menindee and for tourism.
“Hopefully we can start to get some people to come out and see a good side of Menindee, not the devastation that we’ve had.”