Why no floods on floodplains?

Suspicions are rife regarding the lack of floodplain flooding below Menindee.

While the pastoralists are happy to see some water now covering the floodplains in the lower Darling River there have been continuous questions asked at the River Operations Stakeholder Consultation Committee better known as ROSCCO meetings, as to why the Lower Darling River hasn’t received water flooding over the floodplains.

The first flood down the Darling River this year saw excess water being released down the Anabranch which some called an environmental flow.

Rob McBride of Tolarno Station said while the water made its way down the Anabranch it did not cover the floodplains on either side.

The December and January flood also failed to wet the floodplains along the Darling River between Menindee and Wentworth according to Mr McBride.

Large overbank flood events play an important role in maintaining large-scale ecological processes and connectivity along and across the floodplains and between the rivers and their floodplains in the southern Murray-Darling Basin according to a report in the Ecological Management & Restoration Journal in 2011.

Mr McBride said the pastoralists and First Nations people had been asking why the floodplains had not received any water when there was so much about.

He said the water had been flooding these areas for millennia and they should receive flooding when possible.

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Much of the Darling River floodplains have vertosol soils, called Gilgai in Australia, which relies on flooding to naturally plough the soil.

“It appeared to some that questionable excuses had been used to limit the flow down the Darling past Menindee,” Mr McBride said.

He added that potentially 100 million dollars worth of production has been lost because they (the government) have wanted to stop the flooding below Menindee.

“The floodplains finally received water a week or so ago and they look really good. The Billabongs are full and everything’s OK but we should have received it four months ago,” he said

“We have been asking at the ROSCCO meetings why this isn’t happening and they won’t give a good scientific answer. We want a scientific reason that supports their decisions or perhaps we need an ICAC investigation to see what the real reason is,” he said.

The collective memories of the Lower Darling River community have not forgotten the loss of orchards at Pooncarie, the fight for water during the drought and the “pigs in the trough” event.

Mr McBride said he has learnt not to trust politicians and thinks the decisions they make may be influenced more by big agribusiness upstream than the needs of people below Bourke and especially Menindee.

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