Planning approval amendment paves the way for improved forest flooding

Closer mimicking of natural flooding and lower risk of hypoxic blackwater events are some of the benefits to flow from recently approved amendments to the operating rules for the multi-million dollar Koondrook–Perricoota Flood Enhancement scheme.

Forestry Corporation of NSW Project Manager Linda Broekman said the planning approval allowed environmental water to flow through the forest by better balancing inflows with outflows. This avoids unnecessarily pooling water in the forest.

“Flooding is critical to the health of River Red Gum forests, not just for trees, but also for resident native fish, waterbirds, wetlands and other flora and fauna that depend on a healthy forest,” Ms Broekman said.

“The Koondrook–Perricoota Flood Enhancement scheme gives us the capacity to keep these State forests and wetlands in good health despite inadequate natural flooding by releasing water through the forest in a way that closely mimics a natural flood.

“Since we established the scheme, we’ve been closely monitoring how the forest has been responding to floods and we recognised that amending the rules to allow us to release more water from the forest will more closely mimic environmental flows and limit the potential for hypoxic blackwater events.

“Any flooding through the forest has the potential to create blackwater, which in itself is really good for the environment and downstream systems, but what we want to avoid is hypoxia occurring and that’s exactly what these amendments are designed to do.

“This amendment is just about adapting the operating rules in line with our monitoring and research – we won’t be making any changes to the existing structures themselves.”

Ms Broekman said work needed to be done with upstream and downstream landholders to mitigate the impacts before the amendments were put into effect.

“This has been a long-term project and we’ve been working collaboratively with landholders and the broader community for the past decade as we’ve developed and begun using this forest flooding scheme,” Ms Broekman said.

“While we now have approval to release water downstream, we won’t be releasing flows from the forest until the impact on downstream landholders is mitigated.

“The local community has recently developed some preferred locally-driven solutions to impacts downstream of the forest. We’re looking forward to continuing to work with the local people, with the aim of managing flows in a way that benefits both the environment and downstream communities.”

Koondrook–Perricoota Flood Enhancement scheme was delivered through The Living Murray initiative, which is funded by the Victorian, South Australian, Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales and Commonwealth governments, and coordinated by the Murray–Darling Basin Authority. The program delivers recovered water to selected icon sites to protect and restore floodplain ecosystems.

Media contact: Elizabeth Fowler 9407 4265/ 0408 779 903