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Bushwalk showcases Merbein’s wetland wonders

THE remarkable regeneration occurring at two important wetlands near Merbein has sparked strong community interest, with locals turning out to inspect the benefits delivered through the restoration of more natural wetting and drying cycles.

Bushwalk showcases Merbein’s wetland wonders

Bushwalkers on the trail overlooking Cowanna Billabong

The picturesque Cowanna and Brickworks Billabongs, at the Merbein Common, are springing back to life with environmental flows that started earlier this month.

More than 40 people took the chance for a closer look during a Mallee CMA community bushwalk and information day on Sunday.

Mallee CMA Chair Sharyon Peart said the rejuvenation of the wetlands was remarkable, only one season in.

“The Cowanna Billabong has been connected to the Murray River for decades resulting in constant water levels, but last year we installed a regulator so Cowanna’s water level could be managed independently of the river weir pool,” Ms Peart said.

Cowanna Billabong began to dry after the regulator installation was completed in May last year, then earlier this month, pumping of environmental flows began into Cowanna, and flowing through to Brickworks Billabong.

A resident who lives between the two billabongs, Sue Burke, said she attended the bushwalk to get more information about the revival she was seeing in the local environment.

“When the water was first being pumped through from the river it was just magnificent – you could almost see the transformation happening,” Sue said.

“As the billabong went down the birds moved out, but when the water flowed back the birds were back.  It was almost like a bird SOS had gone out!” she said.

Sue said the information day and 3.5 kilometre walk around the billabongs was a good opportunity to understand the ecological needs of the wetlands, as well as the local history of the area.

“It was fantastic just to learn a little bit more by hearing the local history and getting an understanding of how the system all fits together,” Sue said.

“What we are seeing here in the billabongs now just shows really clearly why the drying and wetting cycles are so important for the health of the wetlands and the environment, so it was a great opportunity to learn more about what’s happening.”

Merbein District Historical Society President Bernadette Wells provided the group with an outline of the heritage of the billabongs and the Merbein Common.

“The community is still closely-connected to the common, and from that perspective it was a great opportunity to relate some of the history of the local area,” Bernadette said.

“People love hearing the story of a local site they are connected to and I think it really adds another dimension to the environmental and management of the billabongs that we heard about from the Mallee CMA,” she said.

Information on environmental works at Merbein Common are available from the Mallee CMA website at http://www.malleecma.vic.gov.au/about-us/programs/rivers-and-wetlands/2015-16-seasonal-watering-activities.html

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