Newly-constructed environmental infrastructure including regulators, fishways and a blocking bank has begun its first operations at the Pike and Katarapko floodplains.
The new environmental works, delivered through the South Australian Riverland Floodplains Integrated Infrastructure Program (SARFIIP) will enable the delivery of landscape-scale watering events to support the health and resilience of these key wetlands
The department’s Environmental Water Manager Tony Herbert said the environmental health of the floodplains has continued to decline as a direct result of reduced natural high water events, river regulation and a build-up of salt, which has resulted in a widespread decline in the health of trees and broader floodplain vegetation.
“To achieve the required ecological outcomes, raising of the weir pools at Lock 4 and Lock 5 is beneficial to ensure water flows through the inlets and onto the floodplain and wetlands,” Tony said.
“The environmental regulators provide the ability to manage water level and flow and create more natural wetting and drying cycles within the floodplain, creeks and wetlands.
“Before the regulators were installed water levels remained stable and couldn’t be managed across the floodplain resulting in some key vegetation communities not receiving regular water.”
These first operations will produce a low to medium level inundation so responses can be monitored and used to plan larger watering events in the future.
“Over the years, the River Murray has been highly modified to keep water levels consistent and cycles of wetting and drying have been reduced,” Tony said.
“This has had a significant impact on the environment and ecology of the Pike and Katarapko floodplains.
“Watering a large area of the floodplain will improve the health and condition of important tree communities such as the river red gums, black box, and lignum and support the populations of water birds, turtles and yabbies.
“Looking to the future, having regular, planned inundation events and then monitoring the outcomes will help restore floodplain health and improve the environment for the plants and animals that depend on these wetlands.”
The watering events at each site will run through until mid-December. Construction of the major works at Katarapko were completed in early June 2020, and final works at Pike finished up in late 2019.
For more information on the South Australian Riverland Floodplains Integrated Infrastructure Program visit: https://landscape.sa.gov.au/mr/water/river-murray/restoration-programs