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Healthy Campaspe will greet spring visitors, says NCCMA

By Rodney Woods

The Campaspe River downstream of Eppalock Dam is heading into its most popular time of the year in great condition, despite the recent dry conditions, according to the North Central Catchment Management Authority.

More than a decade of managing water for the environment, fencing off stock and revegetating banks has left the river healthy and ready for a bustling spring and summer, the authority said.

“We know locals and visitors love the Campaspe when the weather warms up, and they are really going to love it this year,” North Central CMA environmental flows project manager Darren White said.

“Local anglers know how good fishing the Campaspe is all year-round, but during spring and summer it is something else.

“And from November through to February, families of all shapes and sizes park their caravans and pitch their tents along the river from Axedale to Echuca, providing a boost to local towns and communities.

“While the river is still recovering from the millennium drought and the 2010-11 floods, it is well on the way to recovery,” Mr White said.

“Over the past 18 months we have seen amazing native fish numbers in the river downstream of Eppalock, with large Murray cod and golden perch being caught regularly, and even good numbers of the critically endangered silver perch being recorded.

“We have evidence of Murray cod spawning for the second year in a row, which has never been recorded before, and Murray Darling rainbow fish returning after being hit with high irrigation flows last summer. You can’t catch the rainbow fish, but they’re great food for larger natives.”

Mr White said the preparation for the coming spring and summer ramped up in the next few weeks with the healthy spring fresh flow being planned on top of the regular low flows.

“An initial pulse of no more than 1400 megalitres a day for three or four days will come down the river from mid-September, cleaning out the leaf litter that is flushed from the lower banks,” he said.

“The lack of flows into the river this year has seen that litter build up, and getting rid of it while the weather is still coolish will help mitigate against any potential toxic black-water events in summer if large storms drop a lot of water or irrigation flows are high.

“This flow will also trigger the native fish to start moving and looking for mates.

"The steadier flows that will go through to summer will help fish breed and be a boon for local anglers and tourists.”

Water for the environment is needed in the lower Campaspe River to mitigate against Eppalock Dam, which stops water from the upper Campaspe and Coliban rivers from flowing downstream.

“Since August 9, almost 8000Ml of water flowed from the upper reaches but was prevented from flowing downstream by the dam wall,” Mr White said.

“Without Eppalock, Mother Nature would have done all the work for us, with that water flowing all the way through to Echuca.

"River regulation means that every now and then Mother Nature needs a helping hand.”

The flows are authorised by the Victorian Environmental Water Holder in line with its Seasonal Watering 2019-20, which are available for download from www.vewh.vic.gov.au and regular watering updates are posted on the North Central CMA website at www.nccma.vic.gov.au