AFTER 29 megalitres of water was taken from Lake Bullen Merri to put out the Gnotuk crater peat fire, a group of concerned locals have called for nearby roadside run-off to be rechannelled back into the waterway.
South Beach Foreshore Committee members Chris Blake and Philip Russell, along with local resident Philip Robinson, said a 150mm (six inch) drop in the lake’s water level had resulted from the fire fighting efforts.
Mr Robinson said Camperdown was fortunate to have lakes Bullen Merri and Gnotuk which proved to be valuable fire barriers for the town of Camperdown during the St Patrick’s Day fires.
“We were also fortunate to have Lake Bullen Merri available as a water reserve to help put out the peat fire,” he said.
“The question now is, ‘how do we replenish that very valuable natural resource?’.”
Armed with local knowledge relating to the flow of roadside water run-off and drainage systems along Naroghid Road and Cross Forest Road to the immediate south and west of the lake, Mr Robinson said “some simple maintenance” could help boost water input for the lake.
“In the 60s and 70s, the Shire of Hampden managed a drainage system on both those roads which in periods of heavy rainfall, delivered additional water flows into the lake,” he said.
“There are a series of spoon drains (open drains) along Naroghid Road with several culverts that were designed to direct the water to the entrance road to Lake Bullen Merri.
“A spoon drain with another four culverts in place then follows that road down into the reserve, directing the water towards the lake.
“The water then enters the lake via a sizeable open pipe located near the south beach boat ramp.”
Mr Robinson said the drainage system had not been maintained for decades and had become overgrown with grass, debris and young trees which restricted water flow.
“At the moment, the run-off just pools and sits around the roadside,” he said.
“All that needs to happen is for the drains to be cleared and the culverts to be cleared and repaired – it’s a low cost solution.
“We may have to run a pipe under the high point of a cattle underpass that has since been built, but that’s not a big issue.
“We could quite easily reinstate what was once a very successful working situation.”
Mr Blake said the lake’s falling water levels would ultimately increase the lake’s salinity levels, which could impact on the waterway’s viability as a recreational fishery.
“Improving water quality is also a big part of the Department of Environment, Water, Land and Planning’s ‘Lake Bullen Merri Management Plan’ which the Corangamite Shire recently adopted,” he said.
“Increasing the amount of water entering the lake can only be of benefit.
“We already struggle to keep up with costly extensions to the boat ramp and jetties due to the receding water level – if we can redirect that roadside run-off, as it once was, it would be a huge help.”
Corangamite Shire acting director of works and services Lyle Tune said council staff would assess the drains and clear them if necessary.
“Now that it has been brought to our attention we will go on-site and have a good look at the drains,” he said.
“If we need to do maintenance on them, then we will go ahead and do what’s necessary.”
Mr Tune said he was willing to discuss the issue further with the proponents if an approach was made.
The State Government’s recently announced Draft Freshwater Fisheries Management Plan singled out Lake Bullen Merri and Lake Purrumbete as providing “an angling experience that was not available anywhere else in Australia”, in terms of offering the chance to catch a “mighty chinook or king salmon”.
As such the draft plan recommended the lakes be included in a new promotions campaign to run over several years.
“Promotion of the crater lakes will encourage visitation, increase the economic contribution to the region and offer new recreational fishers a unique opportunity to have a positive fishing experience,” the plan said.
Mr Russell said any concerns about inflows of roadside water carrying pollutants would be alleviated by the revegetated area at the reserve.
“Those established trees will act as filters for the water,” he said.
“Studies continually highlight concerns about both the lake’s water level and water quality – diverting nearby roadside water into the lake as occurred historically, won’t solve the issue, but it would certainly help.
“We need to start the conversation and give it serious consideration.”