TWO new low-level bridges and fish passages built at McQuades Bend and Frost Crossing, entry points into the Warby-Ovens National Park, are enabling native fish to breed, feed and succeed.
In 2012 the previous gravel and rock crossings at McQuades Bend and Frost Crossing were impacted by flooding, blocking the migration of native fish along Boundary Creek, an anabranch of the Ovens River.
North East Catchment Management Authority senior project officer, Andrew Briggs, said fish passage barriers adversely impact native fish by interrupting spawning or seasonal migrations, restricting access to preferred habitat and food resources, and limiting opportunities for fish refuges during drought conditions.
“Developing solutions for fish passage has been identified as one of the key factors for success in the recovery of native fish populations,” Mr Briggs said.
“The Boundary Creek anabranch runs about 15 kilometres along the Ovens River. It’s important for native fish because it connects to floodplain habitats which, when inundated, provide an abundance of resources such as food and habitat shelter, and prevents predation and competition.
“The bridges provide vehicle access into the National Park and are designed to pass most flows and tolerate being submerged in flood situations. As fish are often reluctant to swim into a dark tunnel, the bridges have been designed with perforated metal grates to let light penetrate to the water below. As water rises the speed of the creek increases, so we’ve installed cement baffles (stumps) underneath the bridges to help break the flow of water to create eddies and refuges for fish to access and have a rest.
“There are about 15 species of native fish which occur in Boundary Creek, including Murray Cod and Golden Perch. Fish refuges are especially important for smaller species which don’t cope well with fast flowing water.”
Parks Victoria area chief ranger, Andrew McDougall, said: “Completion of this new and much improved river crossing is a win-win: it’s good for people and the environment.”
“The crossing provides important access for emergency management vehicles during wildfire and flood management, and it also opens up new opportunities for fishing, camping and tourism in this section of the Warby-Ovens National Park. Significantly, the clever engineering of the crossing will improve the health of the waterway, native fish breeding, and natural water flows,” Mr McDougall said.
“This project is a credit to North East CMA, Fisheries Victoria, Parks Victoria and local contractors, and shows the value of agencies working together to achieve great outcomes.”
This project is part of the Victorian Government’s $222 million investment over the next four years to improve catchment and waterway health across regional Victoria. The project was delivered by North East CMA with support from Parks Victoria, on the traditional lands of the Yorta Yorta Nation. It was part of a highly collaborative, ecological and cultural approach to resolving barriers to fish migration across the north east. It complemented the recent Ovens River Macquarie Perch re-establishment project, which was led by the Victorian Government’s Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning with funding support from recreational fishing licence fees, the Target One Million Plan and the Australian Government’s National Landcare Programme.
The Warby-Ovens National Park fishway project is one of six fishways projects currently in progress in north east Victoria. North East CMA is working with partners to try to secure further funding for fish passage constructions at Bright and Porepunkah Weirs, Snowy Creek Weir at Mitta Mitta and the Tea Garden Weir near Everton.