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New structures to improve wetland health

A new construction project is expected to help restore better health to part of the much-loved Kings Billabong Wildlife Reserve.

The project gets underway next month and will involve two environmental regulators being built at Baggs Bridge and Jennings Bridge to regulate flows into Ducksfoot Lagoon and the Butlers Creek system.

The structures  -- which won’t have any affect on irrigation water supplies stored in Kings Billabong -- will be built adjacent to the existing bridges and stretch about 15 metres across Butlers Creek. 

Locals are being notified that both Baggs Bridge and Jennings Bridge will be closed at different points during the construction period, but not at the same time to ensure access to the reserve is not inhibited. Access to the Kings Billabong Wildlife Reserve will remain open via Psyche Bend Road.

With water quality within the wetland and creek system forecast to improve and carp numbers expected to fall, the project has been welcomed by the Friends of Kings Billabong community group.

“Under current conditions, both Ducksfoot Lagoon and Butlers Creek are permanently inundated by the Lock 11 weir pool, which means these areas have water but don’t get the healthy and natural variation in water levels that wetlands need,” Friends of Kings Billabong president Marjorie Donellan said.

“We’ve seen how regulators can be used to improve the system through the example at Margooya Lagoon, near Robinvale, and we are very keen to see similar results here.”

The regulators will contain water within Ducksfoot Lagoon and the Butlers Creek system, allowing the wetland and creek to have increased inundation during a natural wet phase. Any additional water required to increase the level of the wetlands will be accessed through environmental water allocations. The regulators will also be used to exclude water and allow the creek and wetland to have a drying phase at the appropriate time of the year.

The regulators will be made from interlocking Plastipile material, a patented recycled plastic product.  The structures will also have a regulator gate and carp screen. Minimal excavation work will be required to install the structures, as the Plastipiles are installed using a pile driver attached to a low ground pressure vehicle. 

The project is being managed by the Mallee Catchment Management Authority, in partnership with Parks Victoria, with funding from the Victorian Government’s Victorian Water Trust Rivers of High Environmental Return Opportunity program.

"Reintroducing variations in the water levels at Ducksfoot Lagoon and Butlers Creek will deliver an overall improvement to the health of the wetlands, which will be seen through increases in the numbers of native fish, waterbirds, and frogs,” Mallee CMA chief executive officer Jenny Collins said.

“It will also help to significantly reduce the carp population in these wetlands.”

Monitoring to assess the current health of the ecosystems of the area is already underway with the help of important community groups such as the Friends of Kings Billabong, Mallee Waterwatch volunteers and Sunraysia Field Naturalists.  Monitoring will continue to allow for analysis of the impact of the return to a more natural wetland cycle.

“We’ve spent time talking to Indigenous stakeholders, the Friends of Kings Billabong, the Sunraysia Bird Observers and the Sunraysia Field Naturalists about this project, but people do need to be aware that it’s necessary to close Baggs Bridge and Jennings Bridge for about three weeks while the construction takes place,”  Ms Collins said.

“The best way to get updated information on the road closures is by contacting Parks Victoria on 13 19 63 or by visiting their website.”

The Parks Victoria website is www.parkweb.vic.gov.au

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