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Big dry ends

Tuesday, 14th September, 2010

* Property owner Keith Forster (left) and State Water's Barry Philp turn the wheel at the Packer's Crossing regulator yesterday. * Property owner Keith Forster (left) and State Water's Barry Philp turn the wheel at the Packer's Crossing regulator yesterday.

With the turn of a wheel, water began flowing out of Packer's Crossing regulator yesterday morning bound for the Great Darling River Anabranch.

 By the time the gate is closed again in about two months, 47 gigalitres would have been released from Lake Cawndilla into the 460km-long anabranch.
 It will be enough to see the anabranch flow into the Murray River for the first time in eight years.
 That has people like anabranch landholder Keith Forster and Howard Jones, chairman of the NSW Murray Wetland Working Group, smiling.
 Mr Forster said yesterday the flow would breathe life back into anabranch, which last received a flow from Cawndilla in September 17, 2002.
 Another flow earlier this year - the result of a flooding Darling River - reached about half way down the anabranch.
 Mr Forster said the 41 landholders on the anabranch, who now rely on a pipeline for their domestic and stock supply, weren't allowed to access any of the current flow.
 "It's truly to rejuvenate and give the anabranch a drink," said Mr Forster, who was among a number of people to attend yesterday's gate opening at 11am.
 "There's no downside to it."
 The Murray Darling Basin Authority, which sanctioned the flow, said last week that it would provide a boost for breeding fish, birds and frogs, and regenerate vegetation.
 State Water employee Barry Philp, who was also at yesterday's opening, said releases would start at 300 megalitres per day gradually rising to 1,000ML per day.
 But while water is being drained from the bottom of the lakes, it is entering the top of the system even faster.
 Mr Philp said 9,000Ml was entering the lakes each day as a result of inflows further upstream. As of yesterday, the total storage level of the scheme was 95 per cent, with Cawndilla sitting on 89 per cent capacity.
 Yesterday was the first time the new Packer's Crossing regulator released a flow since its construction, which was done as part of the pipeline project.
 Mr Philp said that on its way to the Murray the flow would have to contend with dense vegetation in both Redbank Creek (which flows into the anabranch) and the anabranch itself.
 While it virtually guarantees water for the anabranch property owners, not every landholder was in favour of the pipeline, which was completed in 2007 at a cost of $28 million.
 Mr Forster, who supported the project and was heavily involved in its planning, said it had proved to be the right choice for landholders.
 "I don't think there's anyone who's not happy with it."
 Mr Jones, who is also chairman of the NSW Environmental Flows Committee, said the NSW and SA governments had to reach approval before the flow could happen, which they did after a case was put forward.
 "South Australia were really good (and) NSW were also good, and the (Murray Darling Basin Authority) helped facilitate it," Mr Jones said.
 Mr Jones said the flow proved "if you prepare a case and the conditions are right you'll get an outcome".
 "I'm pretty happy about today and we proved we could do it."

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