The Boss's Dog

Corker mornings, not for long...

By The General

It's a fine time of year to walk the river. No wrigglies for The Boss to worry about, no pesky campers leaving rubbish around - and the river is back to where it ought to be.

It's been long wait. The inter-valley water transfers started again straight after Christmas and kept the river unseasonally high until May. Well over 400 billion litres went down this season, a massive amount - 25% more than the last record.

The damage is obvious enough: for starters, it has destroyed all of the lower bank vegetation that had established after the Environmental Water Holder figured out the right way to use the water properly.

Then there's the scouring of the bends and the sandbars. My main sandbar - the one I like to swim off most days of the year - has been cleaned right out with hundreds of small of tree roots exposed. The sand has gone.

The one I'm on in this photo has turned into a spit in the middle the river, so the sand has been pushed right across into the river bed. The Boss says it would be rare for the river to ever remain naturally high for five months - so this unnatural use of the river as a channel is making it shallower, by washing sand and sediment into the middle.

The Boss says the shallower river will increase the velocity of the streamflow, causing more bank erosion and widening the river in the future. He's been doing this river management stuff for 30 years, so he says.

Then there's the tree-falls. The Goulburn has plenty of old logs in it - the cover for shrimp, small fish and insects is what makes it such a healthy fish habitat. But the banks are clay and, when they're kept wet for five whole months, the trees start falling over at a much faster rate, as they are now.

And listen to this: The Boss tells me we'll only see the river at this natural level until July, because the Catchment Management Authority has just announced an "environmental flush" for the whole of July - at around 9500 million litres a day. 

They say this will re-establish stream side vegetation but that's not going to happen, is it? The banks are ridiculously wet already and it's been raining, as well,  so any vegetation sticking its head up is going to die. 

And the proposed flow rate is about double the rate of the inter-valley transfers that have just finished. What's all that about?

The Boss reckons it's the Murray Darling Authority trying to get water down to the Murray to keep the South Australians happy and the CMA members don't have the guts to stand up and say it's going to cause more damage.

Which it is. There is no possibility that an entire  month of high river will do anything positive after what we've seen so far this year. It's politics. It's the Murray Darling Plan. It has northing to do with the health of the Goulburn, its floodplain or its adjacent wetlands. It's bureacratic spin, The Boss reckons.

He took a look at the Authority's operating plan and it admits that it uses higher-than-desirable flows in the Goulburn in summer and autumn to avoid delivery demand problems on the Murray!

In other words, they are happy to destroy Victoria's only heritage river to help out an already-degraded river! The Boss gets heated when he talks about it.

It gets worse. The CMA has also flagged another "spring flush" later in the year. He doesn't mind that - it's when nature would do it. But the river doesn't need both and he's doubly unhappy.

Which makes it hard for me to be happy too - but I'm making the most of it. Usually by the time I get him back from our morning adventure to a plate of porridge he's whistling again. At least until tomorrow. Woof!