Read Clarence Floodplain Project Newsletter DEC 2009 text version

Volume 12 | Number 3 December 2009

Clarence Valley Hosts Regional Meeting

The Clarence Valley recently hosted the Urban Sustainability Program regional cluster meeting. The Urban Sustainability Program is an initiative of the NSW Environmental Trust which aims to facilitate projects of significant environmental benefit to NSW. The Program commenced in 2006 and has allocated a total of $78.5 million to 113 projects that are currently being implemented by NSW councils and local government organisations. Through these projects, the Program also aims to improve the capacity of communities and organisations to protect, restore and enhance the sustainability of our urban environment. Senior Project Officer from the Environmental Trust Kellie Walters said "the cluster meeting was an important opportunity for organisations from northern NSW to share innovations, build useful contacts and consider how to address any challenges our projects are facing". Participants also visited a project site at Waterview to see the recently completed improvements made to the drainage system and surrounding pasture. The two water retention structures were constructed to maintain water at suitable levels and address problems such as poor soil moisture, poor quality pasture, blackwater, urban runoff and degraded wetland values and habitat. The landholders were able to meet with us on the day and provide an invaluable insight into sustainable land management practises. For further information on this project please contact Fiona Ensbey on 6641 7350

USP Cluster meeting participants on a field trip to Waterview Heights

What's in this issue

Grazing Management Connect with your Council Alumy Creek Landholders Have Their Say Wooloweyah Ring Drain

Wooloweyah Lagoon Assessment and

Management Plan Finalised

Imesons Swamp Improvements Current Best Practices Coastal Floodplain

ASS Project ­ 08/09

Riparian Action Strategy Rock Fillets Wooloweyah Foreshore Cowans Pond -- Water Hyacinth and

Water Quality

Best Management Practice on Coastal

Floodplains 09/10

How salty is your river Projects update

DECEMBER 2009 Page 1

The Clarence Floodplain Project (CFP) is an initiative of the Clarence Valley Council. The project aims to improve the management of the floodplain, flood control structures, water quality & habitat, in cooperation with landowners, industry, community and government.

Grazing Management

The Northern Rivers Catchment Management Authority is supporting a Sustainable Grazing Management project with activities in the floodplain, hills and tableland regions. Drs Judi Earl and Lewis Kahn of the agricultural consultancy, AIMS, have been working with graziers to develop grazing plans that aim to better control utilisation of pastures that results in healthier and more productive landscapes. Using customized software (eGraze) and skills in pasture assessment, graziers are managing cattle to utilise pastures in a manner that best fits the growth potential of the paddock rather than based on the number of days a mob may graze in a paddock. The success of this approach and the performance of paddocks is being evaluated and updates on progress will be supplied. For more information on the project contact Judi ([email protected]) or Lewis ([email protected]).

Welcome to the December issue of the Clarence Floodplain Project Newsletter. 2009 has been a busy year with some significant achievements by the project team, including a Condition Assessment and Management Plan for Lake Wooloweyah, a Riparian Strategy and several new Floodgate Management Plans. A number of contentious issues were discussed throughout the development of these plans and we thank the participants for their contributions. The actions identified strike a balance between ecological, social and economic outcomes and will lead to some significant benefits for the river and floodplain. Funding is secured for new projects for next year and we look forward to working with landholders on them. Some staff changes are likely as Fiona is shortly going on 12 months maternity leave and Nicole is having an extended break for some overseas travel. We wish them all the best and thank them for their efforts. As the year draws to an end, on behalf of the team, I would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and thank all our volunteers for their efforts throughout 2009. As always, we welcome any feedback from landholders interested in floodplain management.

Connect with your Council

CUSTOMER SERVICE - 02 6643 0200 AFTER HOURS EMERGENCY CONTACT - 02 6626 6858 POSTAL ADDRESS - Locked Bag 23 Grafton 2460 EMAIL - [email protected] WEB - www.clarence.nsw.gov.au OFFICE HOURS - Monday to Friday 8.30am to 4.30pm CLARENCE FLOODPLAIN PROJECT Phone: 02 6641 7350 Fax: 02 6642 3108 70 Pound Street, Grafton 2460

Peter Wilson (Project Manager)

DECEMBER 2009 Page 2

Alumy Creek Landholders Have Their Say

Clarence Valley Council has undertaken a survey of Alumy Creek landholders to determine how they would prefer the waterway to be managed. Alumy Creek continues to be a challenging and complex waterway to manage due to the substantial modifications made to the creek, difficulties in controlling water hyacinth and the differing needs of local landholders. The waterway has been highly modified to provide numerous functions such as flood protection, urban and agricultural drainage, water storage and to exclude river salinity for irrigation. Such modifications have benefited many members of the community however unintended adverse impacts have occurred including large aquatic weed infestations, degraded water quality, poor aesthetics and reduced biodiversity.

Water hyacinth covering Alumy Creek in January 2009

The aquatic weed water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) is a major problem as it covers up to 90% of Alumy Creek. It is recognised as the worlds worst aquatic weed as it damages assets; reduces biodiversity; increases water loss through transpiration; degrades water quality; reduces aesthetics; restricts commercial and recreational activities and is extremely difficult and costly to control. Council is aiming for a sustainable long term reduction in aquatic weeds and an improvement in the health of Alumy Creek, while balancing the needs of the community. Alumy Creek landholders were provided with background information and three management options. The information that they provide in the survey will be used to update the Alumy Creek Management Plan which will take place shortly. For further information please refer to the Alumy Creek Management fact sheets at www.clarence.nsw.gov.au under the sustainable initiative tab or contact Fiona Ensbey on 6641 7350.

Wooloweyah Ring Drain

Funding has been received to modify floodgates on the Wooloweyah Ring Drain to improve access for fish and other aquatic to areas behind the Ring Drain Levee. The Ring Drain is one of the largest drainage systems in the Clarence with about 22 kilometres of watercourses, both natural and excavated. It is connected to about 800ha of mainly intermittent wetlands, which include freshwater wetlands and saltmarsh. The project is also expected to improve water quality through greater water exchange, and prevent salt water intrusion into naturally freshwater areas on Reedy Creek and Little Reedy Creek. A meeting with landowners was held in August to discuss details of the works to occur for the project. Works have started in some of the low lying wetter areas and will be completed over the next six to nine months. For further information on this project please contact Matt Foley on 6641 7350.

There is well established riparian vegetation along much of the Ring Drain and parts of the Radial Drains. This makes it good habitat compared to many other artificial drainage systems.

This project is funded by NSW Environmental Trust and Department Environment, Climate Change and Water

DECEMBER 2009 Page 3

Wooloweyah Lagoon Condition Assessment and Management Plan Finalised

The draft Wooloweyah Lagoon Management Plan went on public exhibition during August this year, and a total of 20 submissions were received. The main issues identified by the submissions were trawling, dredging and flood mitigation structures. The final draft management plan will go before Council in December for endorsement. Supporting the management plan is the condition assessment of Wooloweyah Lagoon, which was conducted from August 2008 to July 2009. The aim of the Wooloweyah Lagoon Condition Assessment was to provide information on the current health of the lagoon and identify potential management issues within the catchment. Turbidity and nutrients have been identified by a range of earlier studies as water quality issues within the Wooloweyah Lagoon catchment, and were the focus of the assessment. The high turbidity within the lagoon was determined to be largely a natural phenomenon due to wind-waves stirring up the bottom sediments. As a result, the recommendation has been made to increase the maximum value for future water quality target values, from the 25 NTU recommended by the Healthy Rivers Commission (1999) to 35 NTU. During dry periods, nutrient concentrations within the lagoon and channels were generally below the maximum values recommended by the Healthy Rivers Commission (1999). However, the Taloumbi Ring Drain and Palmers Channel generally had the highest concentrations of nutrients. This is thought to be due to reduced flushing of these waterways ­ Taloumbi Ring Drain due to floodgates, and Palmers Channel due to the smaller tidal prism in contrast to the other channels Actions in the Wooloweyah Lagoon Management Plan will help to reduce sediment and nutrient contributions to the lagoon and associated channels. This will be achieved by Council working closely with landholders, government, and other organisations to ensure protection and enhancement of environmental, economic and social values into the future. For further information contact Peter Wilson on 6641 7350.

Imesons Swamp Improvements

A new water retention structure has been installed within the largest drain in Imesons Swamp. This area is a large and significant wetland, however previous drainage works and levee construction have altered the hydrology, caused the degradation of wetland values and contributed to acid sulfate soil problems. Imesons Swamp This project has allowed the landholders and Council to implement a Drain Management Plan for Imesons Swamp and construct an overshot & undershot gate. The gate will enable the landholders to accurately control the water level on their properties and improve the potential for wet pasture grazing. These actions will also improve the wetland values, habitat for wildlife and improve the ASS Management. For further information please contact Fiona Ensbey on 6641 7350.

Sportmans Creek

New Overshot & Undershot Gate

Aerial view of Imesons Swamp and location of the new water retention structure

DECEMBER 2009 Page 4

Current Best Practices Coastal Floodplain ASS Project ­ 08/09

This NRCMA funded project is now fully complete and each of the agreed outputs has been achieved. Flooding in May of this year delayed construction of the three water control structures at Woodwards Swamp, Colletts Island and Wants Drain. Woodwards Swamp on Swan creek now has a structure constructed of sheet piling and rock designed at a level to maximise the health of the wetland vegetation. The structure and minor reshaping of the drain allows excess water to flow over a broad area helping achieve the desired water level quickly. Three stock access points were also refurbished on a neighbouring property helping to reduce the impact of cattle on the creek bank. Colletts Island and Wants Drain have both been fitted with adjustable overshot/undershot gates. The gates can be operated in conjunction with floodgate winches to fill and retain water within large wetlands in the Adjustable overshot / undershot upper Coldstream. gate at Colletts Island For further information contact Stuart Murphy on 6641 7350.

A vinyl sheet piling and rock structure at Woodward's swamp

One of three new cattle access points on Swan Creek

Best Management Practice on Coastal Floodplains 09/10

Many landholders have been in contact with CFP staff regarding this NRCMA funded project and several farm visits have revealed some great potential sites. Around 10 different drainage systems have been investigated for planting of native grasses and shrubs. Negotiations with landholders on the Chatsworth Island/Carrols drain are continuing and it is likely that a tidal gate will be fitted to one of the floodgates to allow regular tidal exchange and fish passage. Suitable temperatures and rainfall have prompted vigorous growth of wetland pastures in October and November. Local grazier Rod Lawson shared the success he has achieved after constructing a low level block on a portion of swamp north of Coldstream road. Rod has seen this paddock transform from scalded bare ground to a dense mat of valuable feed. "I've got no inputs, no slashing, no fertiliser, no pesticide, the block also allows me access across the low ground". If you are interested in retaining water or would like to revegetate a river or drain bank on your property contact Stuart Murphy on 6641 7350. Rod Lawson's farm near Tucabia

These projects were funded by Northern Rivers Catchment Management Authority and Clarence Valley Council.

DECEMBER 2009 Page 5

Riparian Action Strategy

Council has drafted a Riparian Action Strategy which aims to strategically improve the management of riparian areas in the Clarence Valley. The strategy contains a methodology for assessing and prioritising riparian areas and a range of strategic goals, recommendations and guidelines for council and the wider community. Healthy riparian areas provide numerous benefits such as the stabilisation of river banks, improved water quality, reduction of aquatic and terrestrial weeds, increased biodiversity, agricultural productivity and significantly contribute to land values and community's enjoyment of the waterways. Most riparian areas within the Clarence Valley Local Government Area have become degraded due to human activities. This strategy aims to guide the management of riparian areas within the Clarence Valley LGA and provide a framework to guide Council in a coordinated approach to achieve effective on-ground outcomes with the limited resources available. It has been developed in consultation with a steering committee consisting of representatives from Council, Intact riparian vegetation at Blackbutt Reserve. DECCW, NRCMA, Land and Property Management Authority, NSW I&I, WetlandCare Australia, Clarence Cane Growers Association, Clarence Landcare Inc. and private land managers. The Riparian Action Strategy was placed on public exhibition throughout November, during which time the community was encouraged to provide feedback. Collation and assessment of the submissions is currently underway. Once completed, the strategy will be reviewed by Council in the New Year. Enquiries should be directed to Fiona Ensbey on 6641 7350. This publication was funded by New South Wales Government Natural Resources Advisory Council (NRAC) and Clarence Valley Council.

Rock Fillets Wooloweyah Foreshore

Sediment has accumulated and mangroves are beginning to regenerate behind rock fillets constructed late last year at Lake Wooloweyah. The rock fillets were built to prevent bank erosion along about 850 metres of the most seriously eroding bank on the Northern West foreshore of the lake. They are a more environmentally friendly form of erosion control than rock revetment, which has been widely used in the past. There has been a prolific seeding of Grey Mangrove (Avicennia marina) this year and many seedlings have already begun to establish behind the rock fillets. Grey Mangrove is the most common species of mangrove that occurs in the lake and estuary. For further information please contact Matt Foley on 6641 7350

Grey mangroves (Avicennia marina) regenerating on sediment deposited behind rock fillets at Lake Wooloweyah.

DECEMBER 2009 Page 6

Cowans Pond ­ Water Hyacinth and Water Quality

Water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) is one of the world's worst aquatic weeds, and is a Class 4 declared noxious weed in NSW. Native to the Amazon basin in South America, it was brought to Australia in the 1890s as an ornamental plant for ponds, and was first recorded in the Clarence River system in 1920. Water hyacinth reproduces both from seeds (which can remain viable for 20+ years) or forms new plants on the ends of stolons (a form of runner). In good conditions, water hyacinth can double its mass in 5 days, forming vast mats. The mats outcompete native vegetation and cause low oxygen conditions in the water body. Water hyacinth is found in many waterways on the Clarence Floodplain, including Cowans Pond. On behalf of the Cowans Pond Management Committee, Council is beginning a spraying program for water hyacinth at Cowans Pond, and the CFP is assisting with water quality monitoring. The first round of water quality monitoring showed that dissolved oxygen (DO) is very low in the pond, with readings of less than 4 mg/L at many sites. The recommended minimum DO to reduce stress on fish and other aquatic animals is 6 mg/L. Water and sediment samples were also collected for nutrient analysis to give an overall indication of the health of the pond. Results to date indicate the nutrient concentrations in the water column are high. Monitoring over the next 12-18 months of spraying will indicate changes in DO as large areas of the water hyacinth are removed. For further information please contact Reece Luxton on 6643 3820. Information sourced from: Burton J. 2005, Water hyacinth Eichhornia crassipes. Agfact P7.6.43, 3rd edition. NSW Department of Primary Industries. CSIRO 2007, Biological control of water hyacinth. http://www.csiro.au/ resources/water-hyacinth-control.html.

Aerial shot of Cowans Pond

How salty is the river

The table below shows the salinity levels at various parts of the Clarence and Coldstream Rivers and Shark Creek on the 1st December 2009. Location Clarence River at Grafton Clarence River at Swan Creek mouth Clarence River at Southgate Creek mouth Clarence River at Ulmarra Clarence River at Lawrence Salinity (ppm) 60 64 116 63 4000 Location Clarence River at Maclean Clarence River at Harwood Bridge Upper Shark Creek at bridge on Byron's Lane Upper Coldstream River at Briner Bridge Lower Coldstream River at Calligans Creek Mouth Salinity (ppm) 8800 18000 204 134 122

As a guide, sea water is around 35,000 ppm salt. The desirable limit as drinking water is 560 ppm for people, 2000 ppm for poultry and pigs and 10,000 ppm for cattle.

DECEMBER 2009 Page 7

Clarence Floodplain Projects Update

Coastal Floodplain & Acid Sulfate Soil Management Project Funded by the Northern Rivers Catchment Management Authority and Clarence Valley Council. This project has concluded as on ground works and landholder training have been completed. Three management plans involving 12 properties have been implemented at Woodward's swamp, Collett's Island and Wants drain. Each project site involved the construction of structures to improve the health of native wetland pastures and water quality. Complementary Drain Works Project Funded by the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water, and Clarence Valley Council. Gilletts Ridge 79 ­ A flap gate on an existing pipe has be fitted to assist in controlling water especially at times when the backswamp is being topped up from the river. Best Management Practice on Coastal Floodplains 09/10 Funded by the Northern Rivers Catchment Management Authority and Clarence Valley Council. Consultation and farm visits have been undertaken on many sites including Chatsworth Island Carrols drain, Hansen's drain and Swan Creek. Potential works include retention of freshwater, planting native tree and grasses on drain banks and the introduction of tidal exchange with a tidal gate. Drain Management 08/09 Funded by the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water and Clarence Valley Council. Broadmouth Creek Landholders on Broadmouth creek have been engaged to address water quality and weed problems that are evident behind the Broadmouth creek block. It is hoped that a floodgate lifting device can be fitted to improve exchange of water with the Coldstream River. Restoring Watercourses, Wetlands and Coastal Lakes on the North Coast This project is funded by the NSW Governments Environmental Trust's Urban Sustainability Program. The partnership councils of Greater Taree, Port Macquarie Hastings, Kempsey Shire, Clarence Valley, Richmond River County and Tweed Shire are undertaking rehabilitation works on wetlands, coastal rivers and creeks which are progressing very well and within budget. The first year project report has been submitted, a communication strategy has been developed and a North Coast Floodplain network newsletter distributed. Councils met at the Northern Rivers Floodplain Network Meeting in November to discuss all aspects of the projects. Sportsmans Creek Project Funded by Northern Rivers Catchment Management Authority, NSW Industry & Investment and Clarence Valley Council. Management options are currently being reviewed by Fisheries. We hope to present them to affected landholders in the not to distant future. Lake Wooloweyah Condition Assessment and Management Plan Funded by the Department of Environment and Climate Change and Clarence Valley Council. The draft Wooloweyah Lagoon Management Plan has been on public exhibition, and the final draft will be presented to Council in December for endorsement. The final report on the Wooloweyah Lagoon Condition Assessment has also been prepared. Riparian Action Strategy This project is funded by the Natural Resources Advisory Council and Clarence Valley Council. The Strategy aims to identify and addresses catchment-wide riparian issues in a logical, integrated and cost-effective way. The Strategy draft has been completed and placed on public exhibition. Collation and assessment of the submissions is underway and will be reviewed by council in the New Year. Lake Wooloweyah Water Quality and Habitat Improvement Funded by the NSW Environmental Trust and DECCW and Clarence Valley Council. A meeting with landowners was held in August to discuss details of the works to occur for the project. Works have started in some of the low lying wetter areas and will be completed over the next six to nine months. Social Network Survey of Clarence Floodplain Drain and Floodgate Management. In March-August 2009, CVC undertook a telephone survey of landholders on the Clarence floodplain to understand who they talk to about drain and floodgate management, and in turn who those people talk to. These partnerships can be illustrated through `social networks', or the connections that people make to exchange information. This information has been given to CSIRO in coded form, and the preliminary results have been presented to CVC in November. So far it is clear that people involved in floodplain management on the Clarence floodplain are generally highly connected, but a handful of key individuals are responsible for the majority of information flow. These results will help the CVC identify which individuals are important sources for information and are critical to floodplain management, and which areas of the floodplain require more connections. Full results will be presented to the Clarence Floodplain and Estuary Partnership Committee in 2010.

DECEMBER 2009 Page 8

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