I gave New Boy a nod towards the sandbar on the river on Monday, and we headed down, out of the wind, for a swim.
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Back on the warm sand, we stretched out for a snooze, as you do.
He woke me up:
NB: This is the life, General.
Me: Too right. But not for long, son – The Boss says they’re putting another one of those environmental flows down this week, and that’s going to cover it up.
NB: Why would they do that? The river’s just gone down again.
Me: Good question.
NB: Well, what’s the answer?
Me: The Boss says the catchment mob say they want to get the yellowbelly to spawn.
NB: Can’t fish look after that themselves?
Me: They can. Nature takes care of itself – if the fish get something like a natural flow in a clean and healthy river they will look after themselves.
NB: Wasn’t the winter flood enough?
Me: It was plenty. And the catchment people threw in another environmental flow in September as well. That’s why you’ve only seen the sandbar three times since May.
NB: They must have their reasons.
Me: But are they good ones? Do the benefits outweigh the costs? Humans think they are smarter than nature and they can improve on it.
NB: Making fish spawn must be important, then?
Me: Son, as a dog, you learn pretty soon to watch what humans do — and pay no attention to what they say.
NB: You don’t think they care about the yellowbelly?
Me: Well, you don’t see these environmental group folks out here fishing, do you? The yellers have never bred all that well in the Goulburn, like they do in the Murray. Maybe they’re not meant to. The Boss says there’s plenty of yellowbelly in the river anyway and none of the fishing fraternity see the need for more water now just to encourage spawning.
NB: Maybe more water is always good?
Me: Not necessarily. The river has been high for five months – and we’ve got summer coming up with all that inter-valley water they send down to the almond growers. Fresh upon fresh upon fresh. More high rivers. See that new tree fall on the other bank – that’s what happens. The banks are drenched, with no vegetation to hold them. Six trees have toppled in along our stretch in the last two months.
NB: So why are we having another high river?
Me: It’s beyond me, son. They’re supposed to be looking after the river but they’re hurting it. They don’t know what to do with all the environmental water they’ve got. They own about a third of the water in Eildon now — and The Boss says the federal mob want to buy a whole heap more.
NB: It doesn’t make sense.
Me: You got it. Not to a dog, anyway. The Boss says the great hope for environmental water was to let nature back in — to try and replicate natural flows in winter and spring as much as possible, with good clean water free of nasty pollutants. Then nature takes care of the rest, including the fish.
NB: So why don’t they do that?
Me: Well, there’s a couple of weirs that regulate the natural flow and some human obstacles to big flows over the banks in winter — so it’s not easy, but they need to deal with that. Instead, they fiddle with stuff like fish spawning, thinking they can do better than nature does.
NB: So what happens to the bee-eaters next week?
Me: They’re stuffed. The Boss counted five nesting burrows low in the bank that will go under by Friday. Those patches of grasses just coming up on the banks will go under, too. You shouldn’t assume humans know what they are doing.
NB: That’s why they need you, General.
Me: A bit of dog wisdom is what they need. Always start with the obvious. Woof!
For more yarns, visit sheppnews.com.au/the-general