Fish breeding event killed: Macquarie River

Image: Matt Hansen

THE $3.4 million dollar WaterNSW managed Lake Burrendong Cold Water Pollution Curtain has failed once again, with freezing water of just 12.2 degrees pouring out of the dam and contaminating the river, right in the middle of breeding season for recovering drought affected native fish. Currently the surface water temperature in Lake Burrendong is 22 degrees, with the downstream releases highly unnatural and creating almost a 50-percent temperature crash.

After the drought from hell that saw thousands upon thousands of fish killed in the local river recently, it was hoped that ideal breeding conditions would be created by the dam’s managers, WaterNSW. However, an icy slick of freezing thermal pollution making its way over 100 km downstream is doing absolutely nothing to stimulate a recovery event for breeding fish like Murray cod, yellowbelly, silver perch and trout cod in the affected reach.

The “award-winning” project has had repeated complications and failures time and time again, with a spokesperson from WaterNSW telling Dubbo Catches in 2017: “The Burrendong temperature control curtain is not currently operational due to some key component failures which occurred during the major storage inflows in mid-2016. WaterNSW is assessing possible repair options and whether any design factors contributed to the curtain’s structural damage.” This failure saw river temperatures crash from 22.4 degrees to a freezing 13 degrees Celsius over just a two week period, again in the breeding season.

The Murray cod breeding season is triggered in spring when the Macquarie River’s temperatures rise to 18 degrees, however after a spend of over $3 million dollars, multiple breeding seasons have been severely compromised through various curtain failures.

In 2016 things went pear-shaped for the “award-winning” project as well, when WaterNSW announced it was investigating a cable break more than 30-metres underwater that has disabled the cold water pollution curtain at the dam. This followed another mechanical setback to beset the thermal pollution curtain after lightning struck the intake tower in late 2015, disabling its automated function.

Following the curtain’s malfunction in November 2016, WaterNSW engineers conducted an exhaustive review of the incident and worked to redesign the curtain, however just a few years on the project has once again done nothing to improve the health of the river downstream, which continues to unnaturally experience severe cold water flow events.

The river health community is understandably wondering when WaterNSW will start managing their infrastructure in line with today’s environmental objectives and community expectations.

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