Lake rehabilitation plan shows signs of recovery




Elliot Newspaper Group


LAKE Meran is showing “impressive signs of recovery” as it reaches the halfway mark in a 10-year rehabilitation plan, water managers say. And with its level dropping towards the bottom of the planned target range, the lake is due to receive another two gigalitres of water in coming weeks. The lake, 18km south-west of Kerang, is considered by the North Central Catchment Management Authority and other agencies to be an important northern Victorian wetland. Previously kept full, due to large influxes when irrigation system channels were drained into it at the end of the season, it is now managed as a wetland. The modernisation of the irrigation channel network and other water management changes following the Millenium drought mean that aside from natural floods and occasional emergency releases, the only water flowing into it at present is environmental water. The North Central CMA said the changed management has allowed for Lake Meran’s rehabilitation, with fluctuating water levels bringing plants and native birds back and protecting an important population of vulnerable Murray River turtles and native fish. “We are five years into our 10-year plan and the lake is behaving exactly as we thought it would,” CMA executive manager Tim Shanahan said. “The mudflats around the edges are moist, which is the perfect environment for germination of vegetation such as rushes and sedges, and flowers such as the threatened Downey Swainson-pea. “More of these plants means better habitat for frogs and small fish when lake levels rise again. “Once water returns, the wetland will boom, as was seen when the southern basin of the wetland was flooded in 2016, after being dry for several years.” Mr Shanahan said the water quality was consistent with the needs of the lake and that salinity levels were suitable for the environment. “We need to balance between leaving enough water in the lake for the fish and turtles, and creating mudflats to allow plants and red gums to thrive,” he said. “The [management] plan, which we developed with significant input from the local community, will see the lake filled in spring 2021, if water is available in the system and unless it floods in between times.” Lake Meran Public Purposes Committee treasurer Ron Kelly said a lot of recreational users were upset that there wasn’t enough water in the lake for ski boats and other activities. Mr Kelly said he was aware that the lake’s water level was getting low but said there were still plenty of visitors in the area. “Right through the year, even in winter, we still get a lot of grey nomads who camp there,” he said. “There’s plenty of wildlife and bird life to look at and there are fish there if you can get a tinnie in to go fishing.”