School holidays are here, and camping, boating, kayaking, fishing and hiking in Barmah National Park are popular holiday activities.
Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority chief executive officer Chris Norman said although regulators in the forest’s creeks would be gradually opened from July 1 to allow inflows from the Murray River, the flows would be confined to creeks within the forest.
‘‘Access to popular camping sites, walking tracks and boat ramps should remain open, however, as always, we encourage visitors to Barmah to check the Parks Victoria website in case works, heavy rain or other events lead to sections of the park being closed,’’ Mr Norman said.
The regulators are expected to stay open until at least the end of October.
Mr Norman said before flood gates were installed in the forest’s creeks, parts of the forest would have been inundated for varying periods of time, most years, following rain and snowmelt upstream of the forest in winter and spring.
‘‘The forest’s plants and animals, including royal spoonbills, Moira grass and Murray cod, depend on this regular flooding, but as a result of the forest’s flooding patterns being altered by regulation of the Murray River to support critical irrigated agriculture, many native species are now considered endangered or threatened,’’ he said.
‘‘Up until 2017, the gates weren’t opened until the flows in the river burst its banks.
‘‘This meant the floodplains would remain dry during periods when, under natural conditions they would have been wet, and then there would be a sudden rush of water flowing into the forest’s creeks.
‘‘After consultation with the relevant state and federal government agencies and the Yorta Yorta community, we now open the regulators earlier and are using environmental water entitlements to allow for more gradual flows into the forest’s creeks.
‘‘This simple strategy resembles more natural conditions.
‘‘Among other benefits, it also helps native fish move through the system, which is critical for breeding, and reduces leaf litter and other organic debris building up on the forest’s floodplains.’’
Most of the flows through the forest will return to the Murray River at Barmah Lake.
The returning water will contain plant material and water bugs that provide valuable fish food from the forest’s creeks and floodplain, which ultimately become part of the food chain that supports greater populations of Murray cod and golden perch.
Cold water contains higher amounts of oxygen.
Flushing the carbon-rich debris — leaf litter and other plant material — that has accumulated on the floodplain into the river in winter therefore reduces the chance of a low-oxygen blackwater event occurring if the flooding started much later in the year when the water is warmer.
Water ‘‘lost to the floodplain’’ is debited against water entitlements held specifically for the environment.
Goulburn Broken CMA said this meant there was no impact on the level of system losses for running the river, and no impact on other entitlement holders.
■For more information about deliveries of water for the environment for Barmah National Park, visit: www.gbcma.vic.gov.au
■For information about track/site closures throughout the year, visit: www.parkweb.vic.gov.au