There’s been another fish kill in the upper lagoon at Money’s Creek.

A couple of weeks ago I received a request from local residents asking if the flood gates could be opened during the then high tides as the water level had dropped dramatically and there was a fear of a fish kill. Council arranged for an unscheduled opening over three days (16th to 18th October) which gave the lagoon a reasonable flush and re-oxygenated the water. (Please click here to view the opening schedule for the gates).

Last Tuesday 29th October I received and forwarded on another request for an unscheduled opening as the water level had again dropped significantly and there were signs of distressed fish. I was told that it had been decided to leave the opening until the 4th November (tomorrow) which was the next scheduled opening. The reasons given were:

  1. Council is hesitant to open the gates over weekends as it would then have to close the popular lower lagoon to swimmers who are primarily made up of families with young children.
  2. The weather forecast at the time predicted rain and thunder storms on the 30th & 31st October which could add fresh water run-off into the lagoon. As it was, we received a decent downpour on Wednesday night (30th) but apparently not enough to have any effect. 
  3. The next scheduled opening was less than a week away.
  4. Each opening and closure costs ratepayers around $4,000 as on each occassion a truck/crane is required with two operators and two traffic controllers to meet WH&S standards.

I have a number of concerns regarding this ongoing situation. It hasn’t been an issue over the last couple of summers because of the floods that we received however, apart from these rain events, it’s almost a certainty that the upper lagoon will experience fish kills (usually in January) as the bottom silts up and hot weather draws the oxygen out of the water. Some years ago Council workers had to manually remove many tonnes of dead & rotting fish over a three day period.

One thing that concerns me greatly is the more recent rapid dropping of the water level. I’ve seen conditions within the lagoon change for over 25 years but I’ve never seen it drop so low so quickly and never so early in the warmer season. Remember, it was only flushed on 18th October and yet on the 29th it had dropped again to an all-time low. This certainly isn’t being caused by evaporation as we haven’t even approached the hottest part of the year and it’s distressing for many people to see the fish slowly dying.

Many people wouldn’t be aware that the lagoon is actually owned by the Bargara Golf Club and not the Council. The club was extremely proactive a few years ago when it sourced funding to conduct a sediment analysis and hydrological study several years ago. As I recall, Council contributed $20,000 for the sediment analysis circa 2008.

Despite the ‘land’ being owned by the Golf Club, there is a widely held expectation that Council will assist in the maintenance of what many regard as a community asset because of its location, scenic nature and wildlife habitat. On the other hand, there are some who are offended by the use of community funds to conduct maintenance on a privately owned property. I don’t intend to debate it here as there are interesting arguments all round but at the end of the day I think that Council and the club need to work together and come up with a long-term solution including an understanding of who is responsible for what. This has all been said before however the issue tends to get shoved into the ‘too hard’ basket until another controversial event occurs.

The club obviously has limited resources however the Council is also financial strapped and needs to ensure that its expenditure is in keeping with community expectations. One thing’s for sure though – the situation isn’t going to remedy itself and it’s only going to get worse unless something definitive is done to fix it. One solution appears to be the dredging of the area (at a huge cost) and using the spoil to create a reinforced island/bird habitat feature in the lagoon together with the implementation of an effective silt mitigation process. From then on a regular maintenance program should keep on top of the problem. It all comes at a price though and who pays?

From a maintenance perspective, some years ago I requested that the current flood gates be re-designed to be automated however it was decided that new gates capable of being opened and closed by a single person would be a suitable and far cheaper solution. A rudementary design was presented to Council and there is currently $200,000 in this years budget for that work to be done. I understand however that State Government legislation such as specially designed fish passages and the like are delaying the design work. At the end of the day though, even new gates aren’t going to fix the problem.

Again, from a maintenance perspective, I’ve also lobbied for many years for the purchase of a multi-purpose aquatic dredge/weed harvester/pile driver/suction pump/etc such as a Truxor which could carry out regular maintenance programs on numerous waterways and channels throughout the entire region (capital cost of about $200,000 including all necessary attachments). This wouldn’t just be used at Money’s Creek but also at other catchments which are the responsibility of Council such as Bargara Lakes, Baldwin Wetlands, Botanical Gardens, Moore Park Beach Lagoon and many others.Unfortunately, my requests have fallen on deaf ears and we continue to engage in ineffective, ad hoc, band-aid measures as a reactive rather than proactive response.

At the moment though, the priority is to find out why the water level has dropped so rapidly and resulted in the current fish kill.




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