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Menindee rejoices

Thursday, 12th March, 2020

Pelicans flocked in high numbers to the Darling River as fresh flows began to fill Lake Wetherell. PICTURE: Graham McCrabb Pelicans flocked in high numbers to the Darling River as fresh flows began to fill Lake Wetherell. PICTURE: Graham McCrabb

By Myles Burt

Fresh flows have reached Menindee where residents were lining up in wait.

Water NSW estimates 230 to 260 gigalitres will reach Lake Wetherell over the coming weeks and months. 

It said the inflow estimate translated to about 12 months’ of water supply for the Lower Darling, and more could be on its way. 

Menindee local Graeme McCrabb said the inflow crossed over a cut-off point in the Darling River about 3.5km north of the Main Weir about 9.30pm Tuesday.

Yesterday, the water was flowing into Lake Wetherell and lapping at the concrete slopes of Menindee’s Main Weir. 

Mr McCrabb said locals were out in force Tuesday night to watch it come down the Darling River. 

“Certainly last night and yesterday afternoon there where cars here, everywhere,” he said.

“There was a fair percentage this morning but I’m assuming this afternoon you won’t be able to get a park.”

Menindee residents aren’t the only ones flocking to Lake Wetherell. Mr McCrabb said there’s been a phenomenal change as a large number of birds have flown in to meet the fresh flow.

“It’s a good time to be here,” he said.

Mr McCrabb said morale in Menindee had been growing since the 30 gigalitre flow prediction for Menindee rose to around 200 gigalitres. 

He said another contributor was the 30 millimetres of rain the town received last week, which gave farms and the environment a small respite from the drought. 

Mr McCrabb said Bonley Creek, which feeds into the Darling River, had been wetted by 130mm last week and had sped up the fresh inflow. 

He said the volume of water coming in and more forecast had helped lower tensions in the town. 

“There’s still water coming down from Queensland so it’s going to take several months for this even to stop.

“If we keep getting rain up there we could still be looking at water or inflows towards the end of the year.

“We’ll certainly get two seasons or two summers out of the inflows we’ve had now, so that’s a lot better than what we’re looking at four weeks ago.”

Mr McCrabb said the water had been very well received by local fish rescue volunteers such as himself who have been working tirelessly to shift Murray Cod and Golden Perch out of drying pools. 

About 150 fish have been moved from the Menindee Weir Pool into water near Weir 32 where aerators help the fish survive.

Mr McCrabb said the inflow will reach Weir 32 next week at the earliest, which will help revitalise the fish there, decrease salinity and stir up the stagnant water to lessen the chances of blue green algae outbreaks.

“It has to go over Weir 32 and that will definitely happen. It’s just a matter of enabling releases from here to make it happen.”

Overall, Mr McCrabb said the town was on a high as locals see their first flow since January, 2017. 

He said the fresh water at the Main Weir was good sign for the lower Darling, which remains bone dry.

“A lot of work needs to be done on protecting small and medium flows into the Darling, the Lakes and the Lower Darling.

“But for the next few weeks it’s going to be nice to enjoy a fair bit of water flowing around, some birds and the possibility of catching a fish.

“It’s all positives at the moment.”

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