The northern Central Highlands of Victoria, to the north east of Melbourne is heavily forested hilly country that harbours endangered species, rainforest and wonderful mountain ash forests. A number of rivers, including the Rubicon and Snobs Creek, flow north, joining the Goulburn system. Sadly, the area has been heavily logged for decades.
This logging has been strongly resisted by locals (see for instance this report from 2018). Protest has focused on the environmental and economic impacts (there is a small eco tourism industry that operates in the region). But a threat to water quality, and hence a fish hatchery that relies on that water, has been gaining media interest lately.
The Snowy Mountains scheme, built between 1949 and 1974, diverts the water of the Snowy River and some of its tributaries, much of which originally flowed southeast onto the river flats of East Gippsland, inland to the Murray and Murrumbidgee Rivers irrigation areas. This has caused the health of the Snowy to decline dramatically.
Following long running campaigns, the Snowy Water Inquiry was established in January 1998. The Inquiry recommended an increase to 15% of natural flows. In 2000, Victoria and NSW agreed to a long-term target of 28%, requiring A$375 million of investment to offset losses to inland irrigators. It has been hoped that this increase in flow will help the health of the river system improve.
However there have been ongoing fears that the flows are not being properly managed in a way that will maximise environmental benefits. In 2013, the NSW Government abolished the Snowy’s scientific monitor and a replacement body, announced in 2014, has not yet been established. As pointed out recently by ecologists, without an independent monitor, there is a risk that the health of the river will go backwards.
The Snowy River Extreme Race is a whitewater event held on the iconic Snowy River in Kosciuszko National Park. The Event takes place on the October long weekend and consists of two races; an Expert race, and an Intermediate race. Both races take place on the stretch of whitewater between Munyang power station and Island Bend campground.
The 2017 race will be held this Sunday the 1st of October.
The Expert race is a pairs time trial on a Class III- IV stretch of whitewater. The Expert race starts below the can-opener rapid and finishes at the rafters track. The expert race is approximately 2km.
The intermediate race is a pairs time trial on a grade III stretch of whitewater. The Intermediate race starts at the rafters track and finishes at the flying fox cable. The intermediate race is approximately 1.7km.
Packraft and Inflatable Kayak Race:
This race is a pairs time trial race using whitewater appropriate packrafts or Inflatable kayaks. The race will take place on the same section as the Intermediate race.
This forum will be an opportunity for residents to hear about the impacts of aerial spraying of the herbicides Clopyralid, Glyphosate and Metsulfuron Methyl in the plantations around Bright and surrounding townships.
“Anglers say the past season was disastrous in terms of lost brown and rainbow trout populations, and fear famous trout rivers are now years from recovery. “It was the worst trout fly fishing season in living memory,” Greenwells Fly Fishing Club at Albury president Des Walters said.
Many blame the widespread removal of non-native willows and poplars on public land under government environmental policy as the chief cause.
For the past four years, the backcountry film festival has been attracting good numbers of people and is showing in more locations.
It seems like it might be time to have our own festival – with films made in Australia.
At previous Melbourne shows, we have added a film about skiing and boarding on The Bluff, and this year saw OFF GRID, a new effort on Mt Bogong from SoO Airtime.
The plan is to hold an Australian backcountry film festival in late spring 2014 with only local content. There are some fantastic film makers out there, and we hope to be able to showcase some of these.
We are seeking expressions of interest from film makers who would like to submit films.
Any human and gravity powered backcountry adventure would be welcome: walking, skiing, boarding, MTBing, paddling, climbing, …
As this is an entirely volunteer effort, with no budget, we are not able to offer payment for showing the films.
Films can be in two length categories. We hope to show an hours worth of short films (3 to 7 minutes) then up to 2 longer films (30 – 40 minutes).
At this point we are looking at doing a Melbourne showing, with the ability to offer the festival to other places once its packaged up.
As we wait patiently for cooler weather and serious snow falls, you may enjoy this one. Its the pilot issue of a newsprint publication.
The previous one focused on all things snow and was called The Drift.
The Watershed is a collaborative newsprint publication between The Usual (‘The Usual is a creative team with a penchant for the outdoors’) and Patagonia to celebrate the joy of simple fly fishing, healthy rivers, dam busting, and sustainably sourced food.
The Watershed features Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia fly fishing ambassador April Vokey, DamNation producer Matt Stoecker, director Travis Rummel, 1% for the Planet co-founder Craig Mathews, dam buster Katie Lee. With contributions by Malcolm Johnson, Jeremy Koreski, Paul Greenberg, Jeanine Pesce, Keith Malloy, Trevor Gordon, Stefan Knecht, Jim Mangan, and others.
Pick up your Spring/Summer 2014 copy at select Patagonia stores worldwide.
Brainsick Productions have released a lovely 6 minute meditation on whitewater paddling in Australia called Three Rivers.
It reflects on the early descents of the Franklin, where paddling parties weren’t really sure of what awaited them down river, then shifts to the Mitta Mitta, which flows from Victoria’s high country, and finishes on the Herbert River in Queensland.
The NSW Government’s Bill to amend the Snowy Hydro Corporatisation Act and replace the independent Snowy Scientific Committee with an advisory committee under the control and direction of Katrina Hodgkinson (NSW Minister for Primary Industries) passed the Lower House last week.
One of the key benefits of the current Committee is that it was “firmly independent of government” as Ms Hodgkinson puts it (ie, doesn’t tow a government line).
According to a report in the SMH:
Scientists, including former members of the six-member scientific committee, said the separation from powerful interests such as the giant Snowy Hydro Ltd gave the panel a critical watchdog role that is likely to be lost. Irrigators, Snowy Hydro and government officials from NSW and Victoria are likely to hold sway, they say.
Independence is “the way scientists give you the best advice”, said Sam Lake, an aquatic expert from Monash University, who served on the committee.
It is set to pass the Upper House Tuesday 25th March unless the Shooters and Christian Democrats change their mind and vote against it.
An independent Snowy Scientific Committee is vital for the restoration of the Snowy River and all other rivers affected by the Snowy scheme.
If you value the Snowy, please write to the Christian Democrats and Shooters and Fishers policy managers, urging them to oppose the government’s Bill.
A quick email is sufficient.
(cut and paste, make any changes you want, add your name and address and email to the two emails below).
Dear Paul and Robert
Snowy Hydro Corporatisation Act
I write to you to express my concerns about the NSW Government’s Bill which will amend the Snowy Hydro Corporatisation Act and replace the independent Snowy Scientific Committee with an advisory committee under the control and direction of Katrina Hodgkinson.
I believe it is essential that the panel continue to be composed of independent, appropriately skilled people. If the proposed changes in the Bill are passed, a critical watchdog role is likely to be lost. Irrigators, Snowy Hydro and government officials from NSW and Victoria are likely to hold sway, rather than scientists.
Having the ability to get independent advice is the best way for government to make sound, long term decisions about the Snowy River. An independent Snowy Scientific Committee is vital for the restoration of the Snowy River and all other rivers affected by the Snowy scheme.
I urge you to vote against the proposed amendments to the Snowy Hydro Corporatisation Act.
GOVERNMENTS have failed the mighty river, writes LOUISE CRISP
The big spring releases from Jindabyne Dam into the Snowy River will capture the media’s attention this week.
Snowy Hydro Ltd will allow up to 84 gigalitres to flow down the Snowy River during the next two weeks.
Although they are much reduced, the spring releases are intended to mimic the huge spring snowmelt flows the Snowy was named for.
Most people now believe the Snowy has been saved.
When Jindabyne Dam was completed in 1967, the Snowy River had 99 per cent of its headwaters captured and diverted west to the Murray-Darling Basin for electricity generation and irrigation, resulting in severe degradation of the Snowy and considerable economic loss to the downstream communities.
In 1996, an expert panel scientific report identified that a healthy river needed the equivalent of 28 per cent annual natural flow below Jindabyne.
Ten years ago, the Victorian, NSW and Commonwealth governments signed agreements and legislation to fund a 10-year plan to return environmental flows to the Snowy.
The three shareholder governments of Snowy Hydro Ltd were committed to providing $375 million to Water for Rivers for savings in the Murray and Murrumbidgee systems to off-set increased flows by 2012 to:
THE Snowy River below Jindabyne Dam – up to 21 per cent of annual natural flow.
SNOWY montane rivers – up to 118 gigalitres a year.
SEVENTY gigalitres a year to the Murray.
The three governments also agreed to return up to 28 per cent to the Snowy below Jindabyne Dam post-2012.
The legislation also required the NSW Government to establish an independent Snowy Scientific Committee to provide advice on the best environmental flow release regime and produce annual state-of-environment reports on the rivers affected by the Snowy scheme.
So where are we 10 years later?
In November 2010 and October last year, large spring flows were released into the Snowy River below Jindabyne from water savings obtained by Water for Rivers.
While the Snowy has seen some good flows this year, it is far from saved.
The annual allocation to the Snowy below Jindabyne this water year (beginning May 1) is only about 15 per cent of the annual natural flow, and half the required minimum environmental flow identified by scientists in 1996. Releases below Jindabyne are unlikely to be much more than 15 per cent, as half the water acquired by Water for Rivers is general security or low reliability.
These entitlements would only deliver much real water to the river in exceptionally wet years.
The upper Snowy River in Kosciuszko National Park was scheduled to receive increased flows from 2007-08 (below Guthega Dam) and from 2009-10 (below Island Bend Dam). However, these sections of the Snowy have not received environmental flows.
For months the Snowy River in Kosciuszko National Park remains a dry stony riverbed.
In addition, the main eastern tributary, the Eucumbene River, and many other tributaries were not included in the original Snowy legislation and will not receive environmental flows.
Snowy Hydro Ltd has made one release to the Murray in 2005-06 of 38 gigalitres.
There is now 230 gigalitres of taxpayer-funded water savings owed the Murray River held by Snowy Hydro Ltd in Snowy Scheme storages. Nevertheless, the Murray Darling Basin Authority has included it in baseline modelling for the proposed Basin plan.
The 2002 legislation also required NSW to establish the independent Snowy Scientific Committee but it was delayed until 2008.
The committee produced a series of invaluable public reports on the adequacy of flows to the Snowy and the upper Murrumbidgee.
The committee’s term expired on May 15 last year and despite commitments from the three relevant NSW ministers, it has still not been re-established.
The 10-year plan to restore the Snowy is a simpler and smaller version of the proposed Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
The failure of governments therefore, to deliver the environmental outcomes for the Snowy, does not bode well for the future of the Murray.