On Ground Works

Project objective

The Healthy Coorong, Healthy Basin (HCHB) On Ground Works project aims to implement short to medium term on-ground works to help mitigate threats to key Coorong biota, while longer term management solutions are investigated and implemented.

These actions seek to contribute to the protection of endangered and vulnerable species, avoid further loss and support the maintenance of the site’s ecological character.

The problem

Recent years have seen sustained changes in the Coorong including declines in the reproductive success and resilience of aquatic plants (that is, Ruppia), changes to the Coorong food-web and declines in the abundance and distribution of some waterbird species.

Declines in the quality and availability of waterbird foraging habitat are linked to declines in the diversity and abundance of waterbirds (including threatened and migratory species) in the Coorong.

Shorebird species have experienced significant declines in the Coorong and are also affected by the cumulative impacts of habitat degradation at multiple scales (including internationally for migratory species), which decreases their overall population resilience.

In addition to supporting the long-term recovery of shorebird habitats within the Coorong, regional shorebird populations can also be supported through improvements in habitat availability within key wetlands across the broader landscape.

What have we done so far?

The On-Ground Works project team has worked with targeted stakeholders and First Nations to identify and develop concept designs that provide short to medium term support for key species of the Coorong South Lagoon across two project streams:

1. Regional Bird Refugia 

Opportunities to improve habitat at wetland sites in the Lower Lakes and the South East have been investigated for their ability to provide refuge sites for waterbirds and support waterbird populations’ recovery for when conditions in the Coorong Southern Lagoon improve. Key species include:

  • Common Greenshank
  • Curlew Sandpiper
  • Sharp-tailed Sandpiper
  • Red-necked Stint
  • Banded stilt
  • Red-capped Plover
  • Red-necked avocet.

Lower Lake Infrastructure upgrades

We have submitted a funding proposal to the Commonwealth for priority infrastructure upgrades at the following Lower Lakes wetlands:

  • Tolderol Game Reserve
  • Waltowa Wetland
  • Teringie Wetland

The submission of this proposal submitted does not necessarily mean that works will take place.

Lake Hawdon North

Following a preliminary assessment of the potential for wetlands in the South East and Lower Lakes regions of South Australia, it was identified that Lake Hawdon North (near Robe) was recommended as a high priority for a more detailed feasibility assessment.

A preliminary restoration feasibility assessment of Lake Hawdon North was conducted. It confirmed that constructing a regulator on Drain L could maintain the ecological health of the Robe Lakes and extend the period of Lake Hawdon inundation. This would extend the period of habitat availability while migrating shorebirds are present in the region.

2. Coorong Ecosystem Restoration

Localised opportunities to improve ecosystem health in the Coorong Southern Lagoon were also investigated for their ability to manage water levels, improve sediment and nutrient conditions and recreate preferred Ruppia habitats. These concepts underwent feasibility assessment in 2020 and will be reviewed in 2022, once further knowledge gaps are filled.

What we are doing now?

Recognising the need to avoid permanent loss of ecological values, this project is currently focused on implementing a series of immediate on-ground actions designed to improve the availability and quality of waterbird habitat while the longer-term rehabilitation of the Coorong is undertaken.

We are undertaking feasibility investigations, consulting with key stakeholders and developing detailed designs at Lake Hawdon North.

Projects are designed to improve and better manage refuge sites and aim to increase foraging habitat for priority Coorong Southern Lagoon waterbirds, including migratory shorebirds.

Projects are complementary to the long-term solutions being investigated through the HCHB Coorong Infrastructure Investigations Project.

Where to from here?

During 2021, Lake Hawdon North assessments will be advanced in collaboration with the Limestone Coast Landscape Board, including consultation with adjacent landholders, licensees and leaseholders, on potential opportunities and impacts of restoration works.

A detailed design and implementation proposal will be developed by the end of 2021. Subject to Commonwealth approval, implementation of these improvement works would commence in 2022–23.

How can I get involved?

You can find out about any current opportunities on our Healthy Coorong, Healthy Basin “Get Involved” page.

Ongoing information

To receive Healthy Coorong, Healthy Basin updates and opportunities, including citizen science activities and community consultations, please email project.coorong@sa.gov.au.

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