Icon Site Environmental Management Plan 2006–2007
Published by Murray-Darling Basin Commission Postal Address GPO Box 409, Canberra ACT 2601 Office location Level 5, 15 Moore Street, Canberra City Australian Capital Territory
Telephone (02) 6279 0100 international + 61 2 6279 0100 Facsimile (02) 6248 8053 international + 61 2 6248 8053 E-Mail [email protected]
For further information contact the Murray-Darling Basin Commission office on (02) 6279 0100
This report may be cited as: The Chowilla Floodplain and Lindsay-Wallpolla Islands Icon Site Environmental Management Plan 2006–2007
MDBC Publication No. 33/06 ISBN 1 921038 99 3
© Copyright Murray-Darling Basin Commission 2006
This work is copyright. Graphical and textual information in the work (with the exception of photographs and the MDBC logo) may be stored, retrieved and reproduced in whole or in part, provided the information is not sold or used for commercial benefit and its source The Chowilla Floodplain and Lindsay-Wallpolla Islands Icon Site Environmental Management Plan 2006–2007 is acknowledged.
Such reproduction includes fair dealing for the purpose of private study, research, criticism or review as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968. Reproduction for other purposes is prohibited without prior permission of the Murray-Darling Basin Commission or the individual photographers and artists with whom copyright applies.
To the extent permitted by law, the copyright holders (including its employees and consultants) exclude all liability to any person for any consequences, including but not limited to all losses, damages, costs, expenses and any other compensation, arising directly or indirectly from using this report (in part or in whole) and any information or material contained in it.
The development of an environmental management plan for The Chowilla Floodplain
and Lindsay-Wallpolla Islands cannot, and is not intended to, affect or diminish any
existing private rights to own or occupy land within the region covered by the plan, or
the way in which such land is used in future.
Chowilla Floodplain and Lindsay-Wallpolla Islands Icon Site Environmental Management Plan 2006-07 i
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY VI
PART A: The Icon Site 3
1. Background 4
1.1POLICY CONTEXT 4
1.2SITE DESCRIPTION AND VALUES 4
2. Making a difference: improving the ecology of the Icon Site 7
2.2FLOW NEEDS 7
2.3SHORT-TERM FLOW MANAGEMENT ACTIONS 8
3. Getting it right: Support systems and processes 9 3.1ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES:CROSS BORDER ARRANGEMENTS 9
3.3MONITORING, EVALUATION AND REPORTING 11
3.4FURTHER INTEGRATION OPPORTUNITIES 12
3.5MAKING TRADEOFFS:PRIORITISING COMPETING MANAGEMENT ACTIONS 12
3.6MANAGING POTENTIAL LEGAL AND RISK ISSUES 14
PART B: The Chowilla Floodplain 15
4. General description 16
4.1HYDROLOGICAL OPERATION 16
4.2LAND TENURE 19
4.3KEY VALUES:ECOLOGICAL, CULTURAL AND SOCIAL 20
5. Current condition 25
6. Threats 28
7. Objectives, targets and flow requirements 37
8. Current management opportunities 43
8.1WEIR POOL MANIPULATION 43
8.2OPERATION OF LOCAL STORAGES 45
8.3RIVER MURRAY SYSTEM-SCALE OPERATIONAL CHANGE 46
8.4WETLAND MANAGEMENT 47
8.5WATERING PROJECTS/FLOODPLAIN IRRIGATION 49
8.6LAND MANAGEMENT 50
8.7POTENTIAL NEW OPTIONS 53
9. Long term management: Proposed actions 57
9.1NEW FLOW CONTROL ENVIRONMENTAL REGULATOR ON DOWNSTREAM SECTION OF CHOWILLA CREEK 57 9.2UPGRADE PIPECLAY CREEK WEIR,SLANEY CREEK WEIR AND BANK E 60
9.3GROUNDWATER MANAGEMENT SCHEME 61
9.4PREFERRED OPTIONS:COSTS AND TIMING 64
10. Management roles and responsibilities 65
11. Monitoring 66
PART C: Lindsay-Wallpolla Islands 72
12. General description 73
12.2LAND TENURE 75
12.3KEY VALUES: ECOLOGICAL, SOCIAL, CULTURAL 75
13. Threats 79
14. Objectives and flow requirements 84
Chowilla Floodplain and Lindsay-Wallpolla Islands Icon Site Environmental Management Plan 2006-07 ii
15. Current management opportunities 87
15.1SOURCES OF ENVIRONMENTAL FLOWS 87
15.2WATER DELIVERY 87
15.3WEIR MANIPULATION 88
15.4COMPLEMENTARY MANAGEMENT 89
15.5GROUNDWATER MANAGEMENT 90
15.6FUTURE OPTIONS 94
16. Future management: Proposed structures and flows for key sites 95
16.1WEBSTER’S AND HORSESHOE LAGOONS 95
16.2LAKE WALLAWALLA 102
16.3PRELIMINARY OPERATING RULES 106
16.4PREFERRED STRUCTURES 111
17. Management roles and responsibilities 114
18. Monitoring, evaluation and reporting 116
APPENDIX I:CHOWILLA INTEGRATED NRMPROJECT 127
APPENDIX II:LIST OF STRATEGIES AND PLANS RELATED TO THE EMP 129
APPENDIX III:VEGETATION GROUPS MAPPED ON CHOWILLA 131
APPENDIX IV:THREATENED PLANT ASSOCIATIONS AT CHOWILLA 135 APPENDIX V:RATED SPECIES OF FLORA AND FAUNA (CHOWILLA) 136 APPENDIX VI:LINDSAY AND WALLPOLLA ISLANDS FLOW PATHS 139 APPENDIX VII:FLOOD INUNDATION MAPS FOR LINDSAY ISLAND 149
APPENDIX VIII:BACKGROUND INVESTIGATIONS 150
APPENDIX IX:EVC MAPS FOR LINDSAY,MULCRA AND WALLPOLLA ISLANDS 151
APPENDIX X:PROPOSED SHORT-TERM MANAGEMENT ACTIONS 154
Chowilla Floodplain and Lindsay-Wallpolla Islands Icon Site Environmental Management Plan 2006-07 iii
List of figures Figure 1: The Living Murray Icon Sites ...1
Figure 1.1: The Chowilla Floodplain and Lindsay-Wallpolla Islands Icon Site ...5
Figure 4.1: The Chowilla floodplain boundary...16
Figure 4.2: Chowilla schematic – Chowilla anabranch system ...18
Figure 4.3: Vegetation communities of the Chowilla floodplain...21
Figure 6.1: Flood extent at 33,000 ML/day ...29
Figure 6.2: Flood extent at 62,000 ML/day Source: CSIRO, 2005 ...30
Figure 6.3: Flood extent at 82,000 ML/day ...30
Figure 6.4: Flood extent at 100,000 ML/day ...31
Figure 6.5: Mechanisms that lead to the accession of saline groundwater to floodplain streams, following major floods ...33
Figure 6.6: Groundwater movement before and after construction of Lock 6 ...33
Source: Sharley and Huggan, 1995 ...33
Figure 6.7: Sheep grazing exclusion map...34
Figure 8.1: Example of desirable operating regime for Lock 5/6 weir pool manipulation ...44
Figure 8.2: Flow to South Australia, October 2000 – January 2001...45
Figure 8.3: Example operating conditions for Lake Victoria ...46
Figure 9.1: Inundation coverage of the Chowilla floodplain at entitlement flows (5,000 ,ML/day) without an environmental regulator on the downstream section of Chowilla Creek...57
Figure 9.2: Predicted inundation coverage of the Chowilla floodplain at entitlement flows (5,000 ML/day) with an environmental regulator on the downstream section of Chowilla Creek...58
Figure 11.1: Conceptual adaptive management system flowchart...68
Figure 12.1: Location of Lindsay, Mulcra and Wallpolla islands...73
Figure 12.2: Maps for Lindsay, Mulcra and Wallpolla islands ...74
Figure 13.1: Percentage of total River Red Gum forest and Black Box woodland on Lindsay and Wallpolla islands inundated as a function of daily discharge in the River Murray ...80
Figure 15.1: Groundwater elevation and salinity in the Channel Sands aquifer...91
Figure 15.2: Interpreted extent of Coonambidgal Formation...92
Figure 15.3: Interpreted thickness of clay (Blanchetown and Upper Parilla Formations) ...93
Figure 16.1: Location of proposed regulating structure at Webster’s Lagoon ...95
Figure 16.2: Location of proposed regulating structure at Webster’s Lagoon ...96
Figure 16.3: Location of proposed regulating structure at Horseshoe Lagoon...97
Figure 16.4: Location of proposed regulating structure at Horseshoe Lagoon...98
Figure 16.5: Location of proposed regulating structures at Lake Wallawalla ...103
Figure 16.6: Extent of inundation at Lake Wallawalla with proposed structure upgrade ...111
Figure 18.1: Adaptive management cycle...118
Figure Ia: Chowilla Integrated Natural Resources Management Project structure...128
Figure IVa: Lindsay Island flow paths – Stage i) ...139
Figure IVb: Lindsay Island flow paths – Stage ii) ...140
Figure VIc: Lindsay Island flow paths – Stage iii)...141
Figure VId: Lindsay Island flow paths – Stage iv) ...142
Figure VIe: Lindsay Island flow paths – Stage v) ...143
Figure VIf: Wallpolla Island Flow Paths Stage i) ...144
Figure VIg: Wallpolla Island Flow Paths Stage ii)...145
Figure VIh: Wallpolla Island Flow Paths Stage iii)...146
Figure VIi: Wallpolla Island Flow Paths Stage iv) ...147
Figure VIj: Wallpolla Island Flow Paths Stage v)...148
Figure IXa: Water regime classes – Lindsay Island ...151
Figure IXb: Water regime classes – Mulcra Island...152
Figure IXc: Water regime classes – Wallpolla Island ...153
Chowilla Floodplain and Lindsay-Wallpolla Islands Icon Site Environmental Management Plan 2006-07 iv
List of plates Plate 1.1: Pigface flowering in amongst Black Box vegetation on the Chowilla floodplain ...6
Plate 5.1: Healthy River Red Gum forest in the ‘flushed zone’ above Lock and Weir 6 ...25
Plate 6.1: Pipeclay Creek Weir ...31
Plate 6.2: Feral goats on the Chowilla floodplain ...35
Plate 8.1: Monoman Island Horseshoe before and after watering ...49
Plate 16.1: Carp in Webster’s Lagoon ...100
Plate 16.2: Pipe culvert on the eastern channel to Lake Wallawalla (looking north towards the Old Mail Route Road from south side of Old Mail Route Road)...104
Plate 16.3: Pipe culverts on the western channel to Lake Wallawalla (looking south across the Lake from north side of Old Mail Route Road) ...104
List of tables Table 2.1: Principles and criteria for prioritising competing management actions...13
Table 4.1: Approximate flows at which Lock and Weir no 5 and 6 are to be removed and reinstated ...17
Table 6.1: Flooding extent, frequency, and duration under natural and current conditions at Chowilla ...29
Table 7.1: Interim ecological objectives developed for the Chowilla floodplain...37
Table 7.2 Primary objectives for the Chowilla floodplain...37
Table 7.3: Preliminary targets ...38
Table 7.4: Hydrological indicators for all vegetation target areas on the Chowilla floodplain ...39
Table 7.5: Summary of objectives, targets and hydrological indicators against possible management actions.41 Table 8.1: Summary of wetland flow triggers and management actions ...48
Table 8.2: ‘First cut’ indication of benefits to Chowilla of delivering 500 GL of ‘new water’...54
Table 8.3: Salinity impacts of the various options assessed ...56
Table 8.4: Options assessed, their contribution to The Living Murray objectives and construction costs ...56
Table 9.1: Chowilla Creek environmental regulator - Predicted inundation coverage for a range of flows...58
Table 9.2: Chowilla GMS project schedule ...64
Table 9.3: Project costs and timing ...64
Table 11.1: Event scale monitoring...69
Table 11.2: Whole-of-Chowilla floodplain scale monitoring...70
Table 13.1: Modelled natural and current flows at Lock 10 for Lindsay-Wallpolla islands floods ...81
Table 14.1: Site specific ecological and flow objectives...85
Table 14.2: Broad flow requirements for Water Management Units at Lindsay and Wallpolla islands...86
Table 16.1: Recommendations for Water Regime Classes at Lindsay, Mulcra and Wallpolla Islands...101
Table 16.2 Proposed gate operating procedures for Webster’s Lagoon ...107
Table 16.3: Proposed gate operating procedures for Horseshoe Lagoon...108
Table 16.4: Natural compared to current inundation frequencies and durations at Lake Wallawalla ...108
Table 16.5: Flow objectives for ecological objectives at Lake Wallawalla...109
Table 16.6: Proposed gate operating procedures for Lake Wallawalla ...113
Table 18.1: Sub- Icon Site monitoring sites for 2005/2006 on Lindsay, Mulcra and Wallpolla islands ...117
Chowilla Floodplain and Lindsay-Wallpolla Islands Icon Site Environmental Management Plan 2006-07 v Abbreviations
AAV Aboriginal Affairs Victoria
EMP Environmental Management Plan
BE Bulk Entitlement
BCR Benefit to Cost Ratio
BEC Barkindji Elders Committee
BSMS Basin Salinity Management Strategy CAMBA China and Australian Migratory Bird Agreement CEFIWG Chowilla Environmental Flows Issues Working Group CCRC Chowilla Community Reference Committee
CMA Catchment Management Authority
COAG Council of Australian Governments
CSIRO Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation DAARE Department for Aboriginal Affairs Reconciliation and Environment DAFF Department for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry
DEH Department for Environment and Heritage
DEM Digital Elevation Model
DNR Department for Natural Resources
DSE Department for Sustainability and Environment
DWLBC Department for Water, Land and Biodiversity Conservation EFS South Australian Environmental Flows Strategy
EIS Environmental Impact Statement
EWA Environmental Water Allocation
EWG MDB Environmental Watering Group
FMIT First Mildura Irrigation Trust
FPRMM First People of the River Murray and Mallee
GMS Groundwater Management System
JAMBA Japan and Australian Migratory Bird Agreement
LAWNMOA Lindsay and Wallpolla Island New Management Options Assessment LMEWG Living Murray Environmental Watering Group
LMEWP Living Murray Environmental Watering Plan
LMEWMP Living Murray Environmental Works and Measures Program NAP National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality
NHT Natural Heritage Trust
MDBC Murray-Darling Basin Commission
MDBMC Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council
MDB-IGA The Intergovernmental Agreement on Addressing Water Over-allocation and Achieving Environmental Objectives in the Murray-Darling Basin
OEF Outcomes and Evaluation Framework
PMAs Programmed Monitoring Activities RACHA Riverland Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Association RMAs Responsive Monitoring Activities
RMW River Murray Water
RWAs Regional Water Authorities
SA MDB NRM Board South Australian Murray Darling Basin Natural Resource Management Board SARDI South Australian Research and Development Institute
SIS Salt Interception Scheme
SRA Shared Responsibility Agreement
TFN Trust For Nature
WMU Water Management Units
WWG Wetland Working Group
Chowilla Floodplain and Lindsay-Wallpolla Islands Icon Site Environmental Management Plan 2006-07 vi
In 2003, $500 million was committed to achieve the First Step of The Living Murray: that is, to recover 500 gigalires (GL) of water per year to improve environmental flows at six Icon Sites along the River Murray. The six sites that will benefit from the First Step are the Barmah-Millewa Forest, Gunbower-Koondrook-Pericoota Forest, Hattah Lakes, Chowilla Floodplain and Lindsay-Wallpolla Islands, the Lower Lakes, Coorong and Murray Mouth, and the River Murray Channel.
The Chowilla Floodplain and Lindsay-Wallpolla Islands Icon Site covers a total of 43,856 ha and spans three states – South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales. The site comprises four main areas of floodplain: the Chowilla floodplain in South Australia (74%) and New South Wales (26%) covering a total of 17,700 ha; and the Lindsay, Mulcra and Wallpolla islands in Victoria, which collectively cover 26,156 ha in northwest Victoria, downstream of Mildura.
This Icon Site is important because it retains much of the area's natural character and attributes. It has a high diversity of both terrestrial and aquatic habitats; supports populations of rare,
endangered and nationally threatened species; as well as sites of cultural significance that are heritage protected. The area is also important for its recreational and economic values.
The Environmental Management Plan (EMP) for the Chowilla Floodplain and Lindsay-Wallpolla Islands Icon Site adopts an integrated, adaptive management approach to the management of the entire site. The plan has been developed in consultation with the Integrated Chowilla Coordinating Committee, technical and community reference committees and the Murray Darling Basin
Commission's Environmental Watering Group. This extensive consultation aims to achieve a consistent approach to planning and management across the site and throughout the Basin and to maintain links with The Living Murray Environmental Watering Plan.
The EMP represents a significant step towards maintaining and enhancing the conservation value of the four floodplains included in the Icon Site through the integrated and strategic delivery of water, land and salinity management. The plan is based on detailed technical information from each floodplain. It shows a serious commitment by the Victorian, New South Wales and South Australian governments and regional management groups to ensure the long-term sustainability of the
Chowilla Floodplain and Lindsay-Wallpolla Islands Icon Site.
The Chowilla floodplain and the Lindsay-Wallpolla islands have specific physical differences and constraints which affect their management and water delivery options. However, there are opportunities for future integration during the plan’s implementation including coordinated management of both sites, transfer of technical knowledge, and coordinated monitoring and consultation.
The key threats to the Icon Site are altered flow regimes, an elevated and altered groundwater regime, obstructions to fish passage, grazing pressure, and pest plants and animals. Flow regulation and diversions in particular have reduced flooding frequencies and duration, as well as elevating saline groundwater levels. This has had a significant impact on native fauna and flora. For example, the health of the River Red Gum and Black Box woodlands in the Icon Site are rapidly declining. It is anticipated that this ecological decline will continue in the absence of recovered water and significant intervention.
As part of The Living Murray Initiative First Step decision, three broad ecological objectives were identified for the Chowilla Floodplain and Lindsay-Wallpolla Islands Icon Site:
To maintain high biodiversity values of the Chowilla floodplain:
• high value wetlands maintained;
• current area of River Red Gum maintained, and
• at least 20% of the original area of Black Box vegetation maintained.
To enable these objectives to be adequately measured, primary objectives and targets have been developed which require implementing a combination of surface water, groundwater and land management actions.
This plan identifies and discusses the mechanisms needed to intervene at the Icon Site to achieve The Living Murray objectives including weir pool manipulation, modifying existing flow control structures, installing new flow control structures, groundwater management schemes, wetland
Chowilla Floodplain and Lindsay-Wallpolla Islands Icon Site Environmental Management Plan 2006-07 vii management including watering initiatives, land management, the recovery of 500 gigalitres
GL/year and maximising water releases from local storages. Such mechanisms can deliver significant ecological benefits to the Chowilla Floodplain and Lindsay- Wallpolla Islands Icon Site and help preserve its significant environmental, social and cultural heritage values.
The success of this plan and ultimately achieving the objectives for the Icon Site depends on engaging people with strong connections to and understanding of the issues and how they affect the broader community.
The Chowilla and Lindsay-Wallpolla Integrated Coordinating Committee will continue to seek opportunities to share technical investigations, knowledge and research across state borders to ensure that the site benefits from a coordinated, consistent and strategic approach to management.
The plan will be revised as further technical
information becomes available and will guide how the site is managed into the future.
How the Plan works This Plan is divided into three parts.
Part A provides the introduction, background, key values and threats for managing the Icon Site in an integrated way. It includes the objectives and targets for management; the roles and responsibilities under The Living Murray;
monitoring, evaluation and reporting requirements; as well as consultation requirements for the plan in line with The Living Murray Business Plan.
Parts B and C provide detailed
information about the Chowilla floodplain and Lindsay-Wallpolla islands
respectively including descriptions, specific threats and values, and management objectives and targets for each. Hydrology, management actions, system operating rules and the current monitoring arrangements are also detailed.
Chowilla Floodplain and Lindsay-Wallpolla Islands Icon Site Environmental Management Plan 2006-07 1
The Living Murray
In 2002, the Murray Darling Basin Ministerial Council (MDBMC) established The Living Murray in response to concerns about the environmental and economic health of the River Murray system.
The program involves a number of collective actions to return the system to a healthy working river.
The vision of The Living Murray is:
…a healthy River Murray system, sustaining communities and preserving unique values.
On the 25th June 2004, First Ministers from the Victorian, New South Wales, South Australian, the ACT and the Australian Government signed the Intergovernmental Agreement on Addressing Water Over-allocation and Achieving Environmental Objectives in the Murray-Darling Basin. This gives effect to their decision in August 2003 to commit $500 million to the First Step of The Living Murray, which aims to recover up to 500 GL (500,000 ML) of water over five years (from 2004) to improve environmental flows and achieve ecological objectives at six Icon Sites along the River Murray.
The arrangements for implementing the First Step are outlined in The Living Murray Business Plan (MDBC, 2004). Under the Business Plan, water recovered through The Living Murray will be managed through The Living Murray Watering Plan 2006-07. The Watering Plan will be the framework for making decisions on the volume, timing and frequency of water to be provided to each of the Icon Sites.
The Business Plan also requires the development of an EMP for each of the six Icon Sites. These plans will build on and refine the ecological objectives for the sites outlined in the First Step, identify specific watering regimes and works required to utilise available water and detail the
complementary management actions required to achieve the ecological objectives. Where an Icon Site involves two or more jurisdictions, the single plan for the entire Icon Site will be developed by collating plans for each jurisdiction into one integrated plan. A coordinating, cross-border committee will develop common objectives and make decisions on priorities across the site.
Figure 1: The Living Murray Icon Sites
Chowilla Floodplain and Lindsay-Wallpolla Islands Icon Site Environmental Management Plan 2006-07 2 The six sites that will benefit from the First Step decision are the Barmah-Millewa Forests,
Gunbower-Koondrook-Pericoota Forest, Hattah Lakes, Chowilla Floodplain and Lindsay-Wallpolla Islands, Lower Lakes, Cooroong and Murray Mouth, and the River Murray Channel. These sites are shown in Figure 1.
Purpose and context of the plan
Environmental Management Plans (EMPs) have been developed for each of the six Icon Sites identified under The Living Murray First Step decision. The purpose of each EMP is to provide the ecological objectives and water requirements of each site, to provide input to The Living Murray Environmental Watering Plan and the framework for delivering environmental flows across the site.
This includes identifying management objectives and targets, water delivery options and the specific watering regimes required at each Icon Site.
The EMP for the Chowilla Floodplain and Lindsay-Wallpolla Islands Icon Site adopts an integrated, adaptive management approach to managing the entire site. It has been developed in consultation with the MDBC's Environmental Watering Group to ensure a consistent approach to planning and management across the site and throughout the Basin and to ensure links with The Living Murray Environmental Watering Plan are maintained. The plan is a living document that will continue to be revised as further information becomes available.
PART A: The Icon Site
Chowilla Floodplain and Lindsay-Wallpolla Islands Icon Site Environmental Management Plan 2006-07 4
1. B ACKGROUND
1.1 Policy context
There are a number of strategies, plans and policies that provide direction for the management of the Chowilla Floodplain and Lindsay-Wallpolla Icon Site. The most relevant of these are as follows:
• National Water Initiative (COAG) Murray-Darling Basin plans
• Murray-Darling Basin Agreement 1992
• The Living Murray - First Step decision
• Inter-governmental Agreement on Addressing Water Over-allocation and Achieving Environmental Objectives in the MDB (MDB-IGA)
• The Living Murray Business Plan to Address Water Over-allocation and to Achieve Environmental Objectives in the Murray-Darling Basin (TLM BP)
• Environmental Works and Measures Program
• The Living Murray Environmental Watering Plan (TLMEWP) State plans
• Biodiversity Plan for the South Australian Murray-Darling Basin
• Victoria's Biodiversity Strategy (2000) SA Murray-Darling Basin plans
• South Australian River Murray Salinity Strategy (DWR, 2001)
• Integrated Natural Resources Management Plan for the South Australian Murray-Darling Basin (2003)
• Environmental Flows for the River Murray – South Australia’s strategic framework for collective action to restore river health (draft, 2004).
• Riverland Ramsar Wetland Plan (DEH, in prep.) Chowilla plans
• The Living Murray Initiative – The Chowilla Demonstration (2004)
• Chowilla Regional Reserve and Chowilla Game Reserve Management Plan (1995)
• Chowilla Resource Management Plan (1995)
• Chowilla Floodplain Biological Study (1990)
• Kulkurna Management Plan (draft) Lindsay-Wallpolla plans and strategies
• Mallee Regional Catchment Strategy (Mallee CMA, 2003)
• Mallee Parks Management Plan
• Forest Management Plan for the Floodplain State Forests of the Mildura Forest Management Area
• Murray River Frontage Action Plan – Merbein to the SA Border
• Rabbit Action Plan (2004)
• The Lindsay and Wallpolla Water Management Plan.
1.2 Site description and values
Description of the Icon Site
The Chowilla Floodplain and Lindsay-Wallpolla Islands Icon Site covers an area of 43,856 ha. The Icon Site comprises four main components of floodplain. The Chowilla floodplain straddles the SA and NSW border covering a total area of 17,700 ha. Some 74% of the Chowilla floodplain lies in SA, while the other 26% is in NSW. (The NSW portion is known as Kulkurna, for the purposes of this plan.) The other main floodplain components are the Lindsay, Mulcra and Wallpolla islands in
Chowilla Floodplain and Lindsay-Wallpolla Islands Icon Site Environmental Management Plan 2006-07 5 Victoria, which collectively cover 26,156 ha in northwest Victoria, downstream of Mildura. Wallpolla Island consists of 9,000 ha of land bounded by Wallpolla Creek, a Murray anabranch, and the Lock 9 weir pool on the River Murray. Lindsay Island (further downstream) consists of 15,000 ha of land bounded by the Lindsay River anabranch, and both the Lock 6 & Lock 7 weir pools. Mulcra Island covers approximately 2,156 ha of State Forest between Lindsay and Wallpolla Islands, and is formed by an anabranch of the Murray River, Potterwalkagee Creek. Figure 1.1 shows a map of the Icon Site.
Figure 1.1: The Chowilla Floodplain and Lindsay-Wallpolla Islands Icon Site Source: MDBC
The Chowilla Floodplain and Lindsay-Wallpolla Islands Icon Site encompass much of the area's natural character and attributes (Plate 1.1). It has a high diversity of both terrestrial and aquatic habitats; supports populations of rare, endangered and nationally threatened species; as well as sites of cultural significance that are heritage protected. The area is also important for its
recreational and economic values.
Long recognised for its high conservation values, the Chowilla floodplain has 28 plant species of state significance, 4 animal species of national significance and 23 animal species of state significance. In addition, the floodplain and associated anabranch system is part of the Riverland Ramsar Wetland (recognised as a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar
Convention), listed on the national and state directories of important wetlands and is incorporated into the Riverland Biosphere Reserve. In South Australia, the floodplain is designated a Game Reserve under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972.
Lindsay and Wallpolla islands are wetlands of national significance and are listed on the Directory of Important Wetlands in Australia. Lindsay and Wallpolla islands have 2 plant species of national significance and 51 of state significance, 27 fauna species of national significance and 37 of state significance and 5 species of waterbirds which are listed under the Japan and Australia Migratory Bird Agreement (JAMBA) and the China and Australia Migratory Bird Agreement (CAMBA), as well as three listed under CAMBA only.
Lindsay Island is part of Murray Sunset National Park that is designated under the National Parks Act 1975 (Victoria).
Chowilla Floodplain and Lindsay-Wallpolla Islands Icon Site Environmental Management Plan 2006-07 6 Plate 1.1: Pigface flowering in amongst Black Box vegetation on the Chowilla floodplain
There are a number of major threats that are common to both the Chowilla floodplain and the Lindsay-Wallpolla islands, such as:
• altered flow regime;
• elevated and altered groundwater regime;
• obstructions to fish passage;
• grazing pressure, and
• pest flora and fauna.
Details of these threats and how they impact on the Chowilla Floodplain and Lindsay-Wallpolla Islands Icon Site are included in parts B and C of this plan.
Chowilla Floodplain and Lindsay-Wallpolla Islands Icon Site Environmental Management Plan 2006-07 7
2. M AKING A DIFFERENCE : IMPROVING THE ECOLOGY OF THE I CON S ITE
The Living Murray objectives
As part of The Living Murray First Step decision, three broad ecological objectives were identified for the Chowilla Floodplain and Lindsay-Wallpolla Icon Site. These are:
To maintain high biodiversity values of the Chowilla floodplain:
1. high value wetlands maintained;
2. current area of River Red Gum maintained, and
3. at least 20% of the original area of Black Box vegetation maintained.
Icon Site objectives
In support of The Living Murray objectives, above, more specific objectives, targets and hydrological indicators have been identified for the Chowilla floodplain and the Lindsay-Wallpolla islands. These are provided in parts B and C of this plan.
2.2 Flow needs
The Living Murray Environmental Watering Plan (LMEWP) (MDBC, 2004) provides a management framework for the application of environmental water across the River Murray system to meet the ecological objectives for the six Icon Sites under The Living Murray First Step decision.
The Living Murray Business Plan states that the purpose of the LMEWP (Clause 99) is to:
apply available water in a way that enhances ecological outcomes across the six significant ecological assets [Icon Sites], protects existing high value areas or areas in good condition and realises the greatest environmental benefit from the water.
In doing this, the LMEWP will coordinate the volume, timing, security and application of water required to meet the ecological objectives of First Step decision, while minimising impacts on existing users. The specific requirements of the LMEWP are outlined in Annex E of the Living Murray Business Plan (MDBC, 2005).
The relationship between the LMEWP and EMPs is described in the introduction to the LMEWP and the Business Plan (MDBC, 2005). In summary, the aim of an EMP is to inform the LMEWP by describing the demand of water for each Icon Site. The Environmental Watering Group (EWG) was established to oversee development and implementation of an EMP for each Icon Site and to assess the volume of water available to implement any given action.
Water requirements for the Icon Site
Floodplain vegetation at the Chowilla and Lindsay-Wallpolla Icon Site require flows ranging from 5,000 ML/day to >100,000 ML/day, with inundation periods averaging three months duration. River Red Gums require more regular watering than Black Box to maintain their health.
Flows between 10,000 ML/day and 60,000 ML/day roughly approximate in-channel flows for much of Lindsay, Mulcra and Wallpolla islands, and start to affect higher backwaters, anabranches and wetlands off the main river channel. Overbank flows begin to occur on Lindsay Island at
approximately 60,000–90,000 ML/day. These flows cause flooding of low-lying parts of the floodplain and connecting anabranches. Flows of 100,000 ML/day and higher start to inundate extensive areas of floodplain and island hydrology is characterised by broad flow paths.
Specific flow requirements for target vegetation and wetland sites are provided in greater detail in parts B and C of this plan. Flow requirements (or hydrological indicators) for other targets, such as native fish, are still to be developed.
Chowilla Floodplain and Lindsay-Wallpolla Islands Icon Site Environmental Management Plan 2006-07 8 Operating rules for flow structures
Locks, weirs, storages and regulating structures control movement of water into and out of the Icon Site. Rules for the operation of the regulators are in place (see parts B and C). However, changes in the operation of these structures that enable more efficient movement and use of the available water across the whole Icon Site are being investigated (for example, weir pool manipulation).
Operating rules for any new structures will also be developed.
Storages, such as Lake Victoria and Lake Eilden, have specific operating rules. These are provided in greater detail in parts B and C of this plan.
The Living Murray Works and Measures Program
The Living Murray Environmental Works and Measures Program (EWMP) was initially an eight year (2003–2011), $150 m program to improve the health of the River Murray system by:
• making the best use of water currently available;
• optimising the benefits of any water recovered in the future, and
• adopting a principled approach to ensure investment is targeted towards the best environmental outcomes.
The recent addition of Australian Government investment ($500 m announcement as part of the 2006-07 federal budget) may help accelerate the EWMP.
The Environmental Works and Measures Group (EWMG) guide activities under the EWMP, which report to the Environmental Watering Group and The Living Murray Board (MDBC, 2004b).
The EWMP is integrally linked to the successful achievement of The Living Murray First Step decision, with the program focusing on maximising environmental benefits for the six Icon Sites (MDBC, 2004b). To help achieve the ecological objectives for the Chowilla Floodplain and Lindsay- Wallpolla Islands Icon Site, the program is investing in a range of operational and structural works and measures relating to wetlands and floodplain processes as well as a range of investigations to inform the future development of the EMP. The activities will help mitigate threats to the floodplain, including improving the frequency, duration and extent of flooding (MDBC, 2004a).
It is envisaged that the majority of the environmental flow management activities for the Chowilla Floodplain and Lindsay-Wallpolla Islands Icon Site will be funded through the EWMP.
2.3 Short-term flow management actions
A range of flow management options could be implemented immediately, subject to water availability (recovered and/or a natural event) and the current limitations imposed by existing infrastructure. In future years, an Annual Operating Plan for the Icon Site will be developed which will outline the management options that could potentially be implemented, the flow triggers and volumes of water required for given flow conditions.
The immediate flow management actions proposed for the Chowilla Floodplain and Lindsay- Wallpolla Islands Icon Site are detailed in Appendix X and include:
• weir pool raising;
• weir pool lowering;
• utilising weir pools to store and release water to achieve maximum ecological and vegetative response;
• maximising opportunities at local storages to enhance a natural river flood event, or to provide pulses of water to increase flow velocity (Lake Victoria, Menindee Lakes, Lake Eilden, Murrumbidgee Weirs, Hume and Dartmouth Dams);
• trialling new flow management structures (ie. bank on outer Chowilla anabranch);
• continuing watering program in high priority areas;
• trial irrigation and/or injection program in high priority areas that cannot be influenced by conventional watering techniques;
• using flow control structures to manage flows into and out of high priority wetlands;
• using flow control structures to extend the duration of inundation at high priority wetlands;
• increasing flows and pulse flows through key anabranches, and
• building structures at Webster’s Lagoon, Horseshoe Lagoon, Lake Wallwalla and Bank E.
Chowilla Floodplain and Lindsay-Wallpolla Islands Icon Site Environmental Management Plan 2006-07 9
3. G ETTING IT RIGHT : S UPPORT SYSTEMS AND PROCESSES
3.1 Roles and responsibilities: Cross border arrangements
As required by The Living Murray Business Plan, each state with an interest in the Chowilla Floodplain and Lindsay-Wallpolla Islands Icon Site (Victoria, SA and NSW) has nominated an Icon Site Manager: for Victoria, from the Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE); for SA, from the Department of Water, Land and Biodiversity Conservation (DWLBC); and for NSW, from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Each manager has responsibility for overseeing the development and implementation of the EMP and undertaking appropriate consultation for their state’s section of the Icon Site.
Where an Icon Site crosses state boundaries, one of the state Icon Site managers takes lead responsibility for developing a single, integrated EMP for the entire Icon Site and carrying out consultation in a coordinated way. For the Chowilla Floodplain and Lindsay-Wallpolla Islands Icon Site, the DWLBC has the role of lead Icon Site manager and has been responsible for the
integration of the EMP and consultation process.
The Chowilla and Lindsay-Wallpolla Integrated Coordinating Committee is responsible for project coordination. Its role is to:
(a) advise the lead Icon Site manager on issues relating to coordinating the integrated flow delivery and management of the Icon Site;
(b) review the integrated EMP on behalf of the lead Icon Site manager;
(c) advise the lead Icon Site manager on funding requirements;
(d) communicate across the integrated Icon Site;
(e) advise the lead Icon Site manager in coordinating consultation on the integrated Icon Site including Indigenous consultation; and
(f) advise the lead Icon Site manager on coordinating technical advice.
The committee will continue to address issues that impact on integrated management of the Icon Site, including cross-border implications, technical integration, priority setting, trade-offs, funding and other issues as they arise, to ensure that the Icon Site benefits from a coordinated and strategic approach to management. Membership will include Icon Site managers and, where applicable, representatives from the:
• DWLBC (SA);
• SA Murray Darling Basin Natural Resource Management (NRM) Board (SA);
• Mallee Catchment Management Authority (CMA) (Vic);
• Lower Murray-Darling CMA (NSW);
• Department of Environment and Heritage (Australian Government);
• Murray-Darling Basin Commission (MDBC);
• DNR (NSW); and
• DSE (Vic).
The committee will be chaired by the lead Icon Site manager on an annual rotational basis, or as agreed by the committee.
Specific management responsibilities for each section of the Icon Site are provided in parts B and C of this plan.
Rather than establish a formal group to advise on technical issues, the Integrated Coordinating Committee will convene a technical advisory group for specific issues as they arise. Composition of the group will vary depending on the particular issue being considered but members will be drawn from agencies and research institutions involved in projects for the Icon Site. The group will be chaired by the project coordinator in the lead jurisdiction.
Chowilla Floodplain and Lindsay-Wallpolla Islands Icon Site Environmental Management Plan 2006-07 10 In addition, a technical knowledge exchange forum will be convened annually, at least, to promote the exchange of knowledge and information. Such forums will be the responsibility of the lead Icon Site manager and will aim to:
• provide information on outcomes of all research investigations, and monitoring and research evaluation activities during the year; and
• share information and make connections between research and other technical activities to inform management decisions.
Broad community consultation
The requirement for consultation is outlined in The Living Murray Business Plan (MDBC, 2004). Part of that requirement is the establishment of a consultation reference group to provide input to the development and implementation of the EMP. Well-developed consultation mechanisms are already in place for both the Chowilla floodplain and Lindsay-Wallpolla sites. Therefore, the proposed process for project management and community consultation during the development and implementation of the EMP builds on these established and successful arrangements.
The Mallee CMA, Lower Murray Darling CMA and the SA Murray Darling Basin NRM Board have responsibility for community consultation and have developed feedback mechanisms and
processes for their portion of the Icon Site.
In developing the EMP, consultation was undertaken with regional and local groups that have an interest and/or role in managing the Icon Site, including tributary interests where relevant. Some engagement has been on a formal, regular basis and some has occurred on an ‘as needs’ basis.
Key stakeholders were consulted and have had direct input to the development of the plan.
Community forums and field tours have also been held to provide updates and gain feedback from targeted stakeholders and the wider community about the management options proposed for the Icon Site.
A range of consultative processes have been adopted to ensure effective, ongoing engagement and sharing of knowledge across state borders. For example, a community reference committee has been established for the Chowilla section of the Icon Site with representatives from SA and NSW, recognising that the Chowilla floodplain straddles both states. The committee’s role is to facilitate and provide a range of community views on the management decisions and investment options for the Chowilla floodplain. It provides advice to the Icon Site manager, particularly in relation to ecological objectives, trade-offs and community consultation processes. Stakeholder involvement in the development and implementation of the planning and management activities will also be facilitated through the reference committee.
Consultation for the integrated site builds on these arrangements. It has been agreed that a Tri- State Forum will assume the role of community reference group for the integrated Icon Site. The Forum includes representatives from the relevant CMAs, NRM board and the Icon Site managers.
The current Terms of Reference and membership may need to be reviewed to be consistent with the consultation requirements of the Living Murray Business Plan. The CMA or NRM board in the jurisdiction that has the lead Icon Site management role will chair the Forum in the same rotation as the Integrated Coordinating Committee.
Broadly, the Tri-State Forum will:
• provide community advice to the Interstate Steering Committee on the development and implementation of the integrated Icon Site EMP;
• provide feedback on the communication plan; and
• facilitate engagement with regional and local groups who have an interest in the Icon Site.
In addition, members of the reference group are being encouraged and supported to act as a conduit for information flow to and from their broader community networks.
Indigenous communities, and in particular traditional owners, have an important role to play in natural resource management. The involvement of the Indigenous community has been sought in all necessary aspects of the Icon Site to ensure the aspirations, interests and contributions of Indigenous people are recognised during the development and implementation of the EMP.
Chowilla Floodplain and Lindsay-Wallpolla Islands Icon Site Environmental Management Plan 2006-07 11 All of the specific traditional landowner groups relevant to the Chowilla Floodplain and Lindsay- Wallpolla Islands Icon Site have been identified and engaged in numerous consultation processes, based on their organisational requirements. Information on these Indigenous groups is included in parts B and C of this plan.
Indigenous consultation has and will continue to be sought on the Chowilla floodplain and Lindsay- Wallpolla islands to:
• identify and protect Indigenous cultural heritage sites;
• identify opportunities for Indigenous partnerships in planning and managing the Icon Site under The Living Murray;
• ensure that Indigenous people have a meaningful role in planning and managing the Icon Site;
• ensure that Indigenous knowledge, values, perceptions and aspirations are incorporated into the EMP in a meaningful and comprehensive way, which informs management decisions;
• facilitate Indigenous community input and involvement in planning processes and in the implementation of projects;
• provide technical support and resources to build capacity for Indigenous people to contribute to the future management of the Icon Site;
• ensure that Indigenous involvement in planning and management is undertaken in a culturally appropriate manner;
• promote the protection and preservation of cultural sites and knowledge;
• coordinate the development of cultural maps for Chowilla, and
• foster linkages and partnerships between the Indigenous Nation, the broader Indigenous community, the SA Icon Site Manager, DWLBC, DEH, the MDBC Indigenous Partnership Project and Lower Murray Darling Rivers Indigenous Nations.
An Indigenous facilitator for the Icon Site will be appointed to help oversee these initiatives.
3.3 Monitoring, evaluation and reporting
Monitoring, evaluation and the reporting of environmental condition and responses to management intervention and natural floods is an essential process for providing stakeholders, community and Indigenous groups with information on the success (or otherwise) of projects, modifying and improving management decisions based on this information (adaptive management) and checking progress towards ecological objectives and targets.
A draft Outcomes Evaluation Framework (OEF, 2006-07) has been developed by the MDBC. This document proposes minimum requirements for the four types of monitoring: (1) River Murray System Condition Monitoring, (2) Site Condition Monitoring, (3) Intervention Monitoring, and (4) Compliance Monitoring. The guidelines presented in the draft framework are directed at ensuring that each Icon Site is monitored to an agreed standard. Monitoring frameworks for the Chowilla Floodplain (DWLBC, 2006) and Lindsay-Wallpolla (Mallee CMA, 2005) have been developed.
These frameworks were developed prior to the release of the OEF and are now undergoing a strategic review to ensure consistency with the OEF and to rationalise effort. Further detail regarding the separate monitoring frameworks is provided in parts B and C of this plan.
Responsibility for monitoring will be shared by governments, scientists and communities with their involvement reflecting the type of monitoring required and the skills and knowledge offered by different groups.
Adaptive management processes (Nyberg, 1999a; Baldwin et al., 2005) provide an essential feedback mechanism within the EMP and monitoring frameworks developed for the Icon Site. This ensures that management actions are based on the latest information and ecological understanding of the system and how it responds to various interventions and natural events. Reviews of the plan's objectives, targets, indicators and actions will assist in determining progress towards the ecological targets and the effectiveness of management and intervention actions. Accordingly, the EMP will be
Chowilla Floodplain and Lindsay-Wallpolla Islands Icon Site Environmental Management Plan 2006-07 12 reviewed regularly and updated as required in response to information arising from monitoring, investigations, modelling and consultation programs.
Updated versions of the EMP will be provided to the MDBMC as required. Annual Operating Plans will also be prepared in accordance with the requirements of The Living Murray Environmental Watering Plan.
Reporting on progress against targets and objectives will keep the community, governments and other stakeholders informed on the progress of the plan and its accomplishments. Reporting is also important for encouraging feedback on the value of the plan as well as the data and knowledge being gathered through its implementation.
3.4 Further integration opportunities
Managing two distinct areas – Chowilla floodplain and Lindsay-Wallpolla Islands – as one, integrated Icon Site demands effective coordination and cooperative management to achieve the desired outcomes. Such integration raises various opportunities and challenges.
Delivering water to the Icon Site
While it is not possible to integrate all management occurring within the Icon Site due to the disparate locations of the two sections, management options relating to getting water to the Icon Site raise opportunities for integration. These options include:
• operation of Lake Victoria and Menindee Lakes;
• operation of locks and weirs;
• River Murray system operation, and
• delivery and use of Living Murray water.
Integration of such options are being explored and implemented by the Chowilla and Lindsay- Wallpolla Integrated Coordinating Committee, on advice from project managers and the technical advisory group.
Other integration opportunities, in terms of sharing research efforts, and challenges, relating to trade-offs over water use and delivery, are discussed below.
Knowledge: current and new
Both the Chowilla floodplain and Lindsay-Wallpolla sections of the Icon Site have investigated various components of their floodplain ecosystems. At Chowilla, this work has focused mainly on the terrestrial vegetation component of the floodplain, namely River Red Gum and Black Box communities. Chowilla has also had a long history of investigations into groundwater and the relationships between groundwater level and salinity and tree health. At Lindsay-Wallpolla, investigations to date have focused on the ‘in stream’ and wetland components of the floodplain, including understanding the relationship between flow and habitat requirements of native fish.
Given these differences, there is an opportunity to share and apply knowledge for the benefit of the entire Icon Site. There are also opportunities to initiate investigations/research across both portions of the Icon Site that could further aid integration, improve management outcomes and potentially reduce costs. An example is the sharing of results from River Red Gum watering projects.
The Integrated Chowilla and Lindsay-Wallpolla Coordinating Committee, on advice from the project managers and technical advisory group, will identify opportunities for sharing research, knowledge and joint investigation opportunities across the entire Icon Site.
3.5 Making tradeoffs: Prioritising competing management actions
Regular negotiations and discussions will be needed between the two sections of the integrated Icon Site on tradeoffs relating to water use and delivery (including both Living Murray water and any surplus flows). Conflicts may arise over the volume, timing and duration required by each section of the Icon Site. Differences between each state regarding operating and approval procedures
required for delivery and use of environmental water may also need to be overcome.
Chowilla Floodplain and Lindsay-Wallpolla Islands Icon Site Environmental Management Plan 2006-07 13 During implementation of the EMP, there will be times when the Icon Site manager will be required to choose between actions that could achieve one or more objectives/targets. In addition, the way in which an action is implemented could achieve differing objectives/targets. For example, peaking a flood may increase the area of River Red Gum and Black Box target community watered, while increasing the duration of a flood may decrease the area inundated but increase the duration enough to allow a colonial bird-breeding event. Different actions could result in different objectives and targets being achieved and the Icon Site manager will be required to facilitate or prioritise between those actions and be aware of the trade-offs associated with those decisions.
To aid such decisions, a series of principles and criteria have been developed (Table 2.1). Adapted from The Living Murray Watering Plan (MDBC, 2004), these principles and criteria have guided site selection as part of the Chowilla Watering Project (ongoing) and will be further reviewed and modified, if required, as they are applied to flow events in the future.
It is important to note that some operational decisions will be based on the best information
available at the time and with understanding that the nature of an event may change. Decisions will also depend on annual/seasonal conditions such as an area requiring emergency treatment.
Table 2.1: Principles and criteria for prioritising competing management actions Principles and criteria for prioritising management actions
1 Contribution to ecological objectives and targets:
Does the action contribute to one or more of the objectives/targets for the Chowilla Floodplain and Lindsay-Wallpolla Islands Icon Site?
Which ecological objectives and targets does it contribute towards?
To what extent will it contribute towards meeting the target/s?
(significantly, moderately, low) 2 Urgency of action: Will the action contribute towards
or save a target area or species from serious and imminent degradation?
What is the conservation status of the target area or species?
To what extent will it contribute towards saving the target area or species from degradation?
3 Complementary actions: Are works or other actions required to achieve the predicted ecological outcome?
Will the complementary actions be operational prior to the implementation of the action?
Are any approvals required to implement the action and can they be sought before implementation?
4 Off site implications: Will there be any potential off site impacts within the Icon Site or outside the Icon Site? eg. salt mobilisation.
Can the off site impacts be managed?
Will there be any potential off site benefits within the Icon Site or outside the Icon Site? eg.
additional water for downstream Icon Sites.
Are the downstream Icon Sites in a position to make use of the benefit?
5 Costs and maintenance: What are the costs associated with the action?
Long term and short term?
Is there on-going maintenance required following the
implementation of the action?
6 Monitoring: Is there adequate monitoring program/s in place to monitor the benefits (and impacts) of the action?
Source: MDBC, 2004