Bathurst council to divert even more water from the Macquarie River

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A PROPOSAL by Bathurst Regional Council to sell and divert treated waste water via a pipeline to a proposed new gold mine near Blayney has angered recreational fishers and water users downstream of Bathurst, including landowners who rely on the recycled water for stock, domestic irrigation and bushfire protection.

BRC proposes to transfer the entire 8.3ML/day of water treated at the Waste Water Treatment Works (WWTW) to the mine with the potential to modify the proposed rules and increase the amount of water available to the mine, if the proposal is approved. The Cease To Transfer (CTT) trigger level proposed is a minuscule 4.1ML/day meaning at this trigger level over 66% of the flow would be transferred to the mine during extremely low flows.

There are several native fish species in the Macquarie River above Burrendong dam and upstream through Bathurst, including threatened, endangered and protected species such as the trout cod, and also key recreational species like Murray cod, golden perch and silver perch.

A study conducted by Dr Nathan Miles reported: “a healthy number of native fishes for the slope or upland zone of an inland river system. In particular the results indicated a more diverse assemblage of native fish than previously reported, and highlights the need for further thorough assessments so any threatening process or development can be appropriately considered and managed.” You can view and download the full report here.

The aquatic species in the Macquarie River above have evolved in response to Natural flow regimes and changes in natural flow regimes have facilitated the invasion of & success of introduced exotic pest species. In winter 1982 during a period of low flows and low temperature extremes an outbreak of Chillodonella occurred. Native fish under stress from the prevailing conditions were susceptible with huge numbers of Iconic Murray cod & freshwater eel tailed catfish found dead along the length of the Macquarie and Turon Rivers above Burrendong dam. The absence of Australia’s fresh water top order apex predator, the Murray cod, enabled & assisted exotic pest species to become established in the Rivers above Burrendong Dam. In subsequent years native fish were absent from recreation angler catches in the rivers above the dam.

Regional volunteers from the Central Acclimatisation Society and local fishing clubs have been active in native fish recovery programs in the Macquarie & Turon Rivers and in 2009 the Macquarie River above Burrendong dam was selected as having suitable habitat to support Trout Cod. Trout Cod were first discovered in the Macquarie River at Bathurst. Since 2009 over 150,000 Trout Cod have been restocked into the river from the breeding program at NSW DPI Narrandera Fisheries Centre.

Positive early signs are the reports of recreational anglers encountering & releasing Trout Cod in the river while fishing for Murray cod & golden perch. A primary action of Trout Cod recovery identified under the plan is to protect & enhance habitat values, of which a major component is providing for appropriate flows in all streams in the natural range of the species. Details of recovery plans can be found on the Fisheries website.

Recovery plans for other threatened species present in the Macquarie river above Burrendong dam include Murray cod & silver perch. Fisheries have and are currently conducting ongoing rigorous sampling surveys to establish a baseline for assessment of potential impacts resulting from the operation of the highly controversial Macquarie to Orange pipeline. The surveys have reported the occurrence of Trout Cod, Murray cod, Silver perch, freshwater eel tailed catfish and golden perch, several of which are angling species within the flow zone of influence of the discharge of treated water from the Bathurst WWTW. If the transfer of treated water is approved by BRC there is potential for significant impacts on base flows during low flows which will interfere with native fish recovery plans.

Click on this link to look at the documents and have your say via an online submission. Written & online submissions close at 5pm on Monday 21 December 2015.

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