Stop wrecking our river system

By Zoe McMaugh

The iconic Edward River is paying the price for being used to push huge quantities of water downstream.

Prominent local fisherman Ian Fisher is incensed at the damage being caused to the river, which he says is being sacrificed for downstream communities.

He has the backing of world-renowned river scientist and fellow Edward River devotee Dr John Conallin.

The pair took to the Edward River on Thursday night and captured footage which shows such severe degradation of the river banks that entire tree root systems are exposed.

Mr Fisher says so-called ‘environmental water’ is destroying the very river system it is supposed to protect.

High flows are causing trees to topple, either into the water or onto the already vulnerable banks.

‘‘This is my patch,’’ Mr Fisher said in an emotive interview with the Pastoral Times on Friday.

‘‘I have been fishing here for 45 years, and now the banks are failing and the trees are falling down. The river is running one metre higher than normal.

‘‘I have been watching the Azure Kingfishers nest in the banks for the last six years, and this year they have found six metres of the banks gone.

‘‘Access to water is only one part of the problem in this area. If they (relevant authorities) don’t use the environmental water properly, it will destroy this environment.

‘‘All the Basin Plan authorities do — whether it’s the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder or the Murray Darling Basin Authority — is shift water from here to there.

‘‘They can’t tell me the water is about the environment, when if it was given to rice farmers it would be creating a variety of ecosystems every summer.

‘‘Don’t use the environment as an excuse to run water through here. I have the photos to prove they are ruining this environment.’’

Mr Fisher said what is happening instead is a ‘‘blatant attack’’ on farming families in the local area.

‘‘Water is being sold out of the area which is killing satellite towns like Wakool.

‘‘They (authorities) are coming in and buying back the water, they are forcing farmers off the land, and selling all the water downstream and running it through here. They call it environmental water and it’s running flat out. And it ruins this area.

‘‘They give Murray Irrigation all this money to track every single drop of water we use, but the northern irrigators can use as much as they want.

‘‘But no-one will listen. They just wear you down and wear you down.

‘‘If they want us to leave, they are achieving their objective.’’

When asked about the erosion concerns and what is being done to address them, MDBA executive director of river management Andrew Reynolds, who was in Deniliquin on Friday, laid the blame on a particularly difficult year due to limitations in the Murrumbidgee and Menindee Lakes.

‘‘In running the river we need to have balance on a whole range of things that are positive for the environment, or at least with minimal impact.

‘‘There are demands we have to meet. In other years we may not have to run the river so hard.

‘‘We have been looking at the (Barmah) choke, and in the last few months have done a survey on erosion and looking at how water moves through the system,’’ he said.

Mr Reynolds said the MDBA is also investigating the impact of development downstream on demand and deliverability of water, and said if required the authority will intervene.