The Anabranch flows

Otis Filley

After nearly 10 weeks, the Great Darling Anabranch flow has connected with the Murray River. The Flow which was first released from Lake Cawndilla on September 24 reached the Murray weir pool late on Sunday afternoon.

The flows down the Anabranch have been a combination of overflow from a full Menindee Lakes system, as well as deliberate releases of environmental water.

Interim Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder, Hilton Taylor said that the flows down the Anabranch will bring a huge burst of life for local communities, native fish, trees, birds and river vegetation.

“It has been fantastic to see water back in the Great Darling Anabranch for the first time in almost 5 years. The decision to release the water from Lake Cawndilla down the Anabranch “has been a collaborative effort, with state and federal agencies working together with the community. “

Great Darling Anabranch Station holders, Wentworth community members and water enthusiasts staked out the final hours as the head of the flow approached the Murray weir pool on Saturday night.

For local Anabranch station holder and event organiser, Angus Whyte, after more than 10 weeks of watching the flow travel down the river, the water meeting the Murray was cause for celebration.

With permission from property owners Phil and Amber Baird, Whyte sent out a public invite to gather where the Murray weir pool ends and the incoming flow would meet.

Whyte said that it was an opportunity to “celebrate in a year where there hasn’t been many celebrations…It makes you really appreciate what we have been through, recognising that the last three or four years have been exceptionally dry”.

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DPI Fisheries have reported that native fish that likely spawned in the Northern Basin are now being observed in the Southern Basin.

The Menindee Lakes which act as a ‘fish nursey’ will be an important part of this fish recovery, allowing juvenile Golden Perch to travel from the lakes into the Murray River via the Great Darling Anabranch.

CEWH Hilton Taylor said that “Life will follow the flow – birds, fish, yabbies, frogs and the local community will all benefit from this oasis in the landscape.”

“By combining environmental water with other releases from the Menindee Lakes, we’ve created a fish highway from Lake Cawndilla all the way to the Murray.”

For Angus Whyte, to meet the critical needs of the Darling River is one thing; however getting water into the whole floodplain system will create much needed biodiversity.

“The Menindee Lake System, the Darling River Anabranch and Talywalka Creek are key components of that floodplain system…water in these places brings life and the breeding of fish, crustaceans and beautiful water birds.”

“We want to really highlight the benefits of water in the Anabranch so it doesn’t get forgotten, because it is so important to connect the rivers, the floodplains and encourage the restoration of the whole Murray Darling System.”

Mr Whyte says that he tries not to pit the management of his Anabranch property at Wyndham against the environment “because you’ll lose every time”.

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He said that whilst the drought of the last few years has been tough, monitoring the quality and availability of pasture is all part of making decisions as a grazier on semi-arid country.

“We don’t have a fixed management regime in any way shape or form,” He said. Extensive periods of no flows and very little rain necessitate innovative approaches that depend on the availability of surface-flows.

“We make sure we have good communication amongst people, livestock and the environment, so we can make decisions in tune with our landscape”.

Whilst Mr Whyte acknowledges that he has had to sell cattle at times because of the drought, in the last few years he has been more concerned about the native wildlife.

He acknowledges that the “kangaroos and emus have done it a lot tougher than our livestock, because we can’t put them on a truck and send them away. The native animals “have had to fend for themselves.”

Mr Whyte said he hopes to go yabbying and that the water might serve as a bartering tool, to help lure some trades people to his property.

“We’ve got something to bargain with, to be able to say come out and throw a yabby net in the river and while you’re there, paint our house, or reclad our ceiling.”

 

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