South Esk River Draft Management Plan – Have your say now

The South Esk Draft Management Plan was released a month ago, and has since taken all my spare time; the South Esk River is  Tasmania’s greatest river fishery, yet it is set to be destroyed under the Draft Management Plan which closes for public comment early December.

A summary of the major issues are as follows:

  • The Draft Plan ignores the advice of the Government’s own scientific advisors and recommends a continuation of the current minimum cease to take flows of 40ML/Day — this is more than 60% less than the recommended 100-160ML/Day environmental flows required to maintain and enhance the environmental conditions, and required to facilitate angling throughout the summer. The only reasoning that DPIPWE staff have given is that 40ML/Day is the status quo, and that irrigators would have to build their own dams for the collection and storage of high flows if their summer takes were reduced. This is a shocking justification, owing to the fact that trout population dynamics and invertebrate populations are being harmed 3 out of 5 years under the status quo, and Lake Trevallyn at the end of the South Esk in Launceston, has been closed for all water sports over the past two to three summers because of toxic algal blooms. The public needs to demand that the environmental flows recommended by the experts are adopted and enforced by the Plan, so that the environment of the river may recover, be maintained and/or enhanced. There are huge amounts of water available for irrigation, but it needs to be captured outside of summer and stored off-stream.
  • Irrigators were the only stakeholders consulted in the formulation of the Draft Plan—Northern Tasmania’s Natural Resource Management body (NRM North) were relegated to observer status without input, anglers were left out in the cold (even though up to 3000 anglers fish the river per year), and other recreational users of the river and Lake Trevallyn weren’t even considered.
  • The prescribed environmental flows are to be gauged at Llewellyn, along the Fingal Highway. This means that there is no environmental flow being guaranteed or monitored for the lower third of the river system, from Llewellyn through Glen Esk, Nile, Evandale, Longford, Hadspen or Launceston (into Lake Trevallyn). This is unacceptable, and environmental flows need to be guaranteed for the end of the river system.
  • During Summer low flow periods, the South Esk flows emanate from one large aquifer – this aquifer is now being used to grow in excess of 15,000 hectares of new tree plantations in the headwaters, using more water than traditional standing forest or agricultural land. Under the Water Management Act 1999, evapotranspiration (water use) by trees or plantations is not considered a water use, therefore the authors of the Draft Plan have not accounted for the increased consumption of these baseflows. What the water managers can do however, is plan to manage for reduced baseflow availability, which we need to ensure is accounted for. Without this allowance for decreased baseflows, the Draft Plan is incomplete.

In a nutshell, one of Tasmania’s most popular rivers will be destroyed by the Plan in its current draft state. The Draft Plan fails to meet its own listed Environmental Objectives (2.2.1 (a), (b), (d)) and Social Objectives (2.2.3 (a), (b), (c)) (from page 9). The Draft Management Plan also fails to meet its requirement to ‘ensure that environmental water receives a greater level of security than consumptive water’ (from page 34).  I ask that any concerned anglers, recreational users or clubs view the Draft Management Plan here and have your say by making a submission to:

Contact: Water Management Planning Officer

Henry Maxwell
Water Management Planning Officer
1 Franklin Wharf HOBART TAS 7000
Phone: 03 6233 4807
Fax: 03 6224 4977
Email: 
Henry.Maxwell@dpipwe.tas.gov.au

For those of you worried about losing access through private (irrigated) property by speaking out against ludicrous aspects of this plan, have a think about this: if the plan goes through, the river will die a death of a thousand cuts, and there will be no river fishery left to access. The future of the river is in our hands – will you speak out, or let it die through a lack of action?  The deadline for written representations is 11 December 2009, feel free to cut and paste from my comments.

Tasmanian fly fishing - mayfly hookup

Tasmanian fly fishing - mayfly hookup

South Esk River Draft Management Plan

 

South Esk River trout

Have your say or lose the South Esk River:

 

G’day fellow anglers / angling club representatives, 

A quick and very important note in regards to the South Esk River, one of Tasmania’s most visited river fisheries. The State Government has just released a Draft Management Plan which will govern future use and management of the river, and there is a period for public comment open until the 11 December 2009. 

Of importance to anglers are the recommended minimum environmental flows. When the river reaches these levels from December to April, irrigation takes will cease. Two purposes of these minimum flows are to protect the environment, and recreational (social) values of the river. 

The scientists commissioned to recommend the environmental flow rates (also known as ‘cease to take flows’), recommended 100-160ML/Day flow rates. These levels would preserve the environment, and maintain minimum levels for anglers and other recreational users. My own detailed fishing records from the past eight years also show that the river is fishable down to a flow of 100ML/Day, but any lower and the flow all but stops, the river temperatures get too high, and the trout and bug life enter into survival mode. 

Despite the recommendations from the government-commissioned scientists, the Draft Management Plan is recommending environmental flows of 40ML/Day – less than half the recommended flows. This will mean that the river is un-fishable for large periods of time during the season, and that fish and bug life will be under stress for months at a time. The South Esk fishery would be impacted upon heavily, if not destroyed, given that the Draft Plan will also be encouraging and permitting increased levels of irrigation directly from the river. The Draft Plan has this to say of its own 40ML/Day environmental flows: 

‘this Plan maintains baseflows in the South Esk River up to 40 ML/day during the December – April periodDuring the December – April period, the cease to take flow threshold is considerably less than the recommended minimum environmental flow thresholds (100 – 160 ML/day), and hence there is a higher level of risk to the environment as a result…Whilst it would be preferable to set cease to take flow thresholds as recommended, the potential impact on irrigation water supply would have been significant.’ 

The Draft Plan recognises that an environmental flow rate of 40ML/Day will risk environmental damage to the river. In risking damage to the environment, and by recommending flow rates of less than 100-160ML/Day as advised by the scientists, the Draft Plan fails to meet its own listed Environmental Objectives (2.2.1 (a), (b), (d)) and Social Objectives (2.2.3 (a), (b), (c)) (from page 9). The Draft Management Plan also fails to meet its requirement to ‘ensure that environmental water receives a greater level of security than consumptive water’ (from page 34). 

In a nutshell, one of Tasmania’s most fished rivers will be destroyed by the Plan in its current draft state. Anglers need to demand that the environmental flows are set to the recommended 100-160ML/Day. This will allow for planned irrigation development, but will also protect the environment and angling. The time to act is now. I ask that any concerned anglers or clubs view the Draft Management Plan here  and have your say by making a submission to:

Contact: Water Management Planning Officer

Henry Maxwell
Water Management Planning Officer
1 Franklin Wharf HOBART TAS 7000
Phone: 03 6233 4807
Fax: 03 6224 4977
Email: 
Henry.Maxwell@dpipwe.tas.gov.au

 Feel free to use the information above. The deadline for written representations is 11 December 2009, and there are two public forums being held at Fingal and Longford on the 21 October (full details on the website).

 Please have your say, and pass this message on.

 Thanks for your time.