EMERGENCY upgrade works got under way at Lake Bullen Merri on Tuesday after the South Beach Foreshore Committee (SBFC) was forced to close the jetties to public use on the weekend.
Extreme winds on St Patrick’s Day, coupled with a continually receding water level, forced the closure of the jetties after several falls were reported.
SBFC secretary Peter Place said the floating pontoons had dropped with the water level.
“That meant the access ramp onto the platoons was just too steep for safe use,” he said.
“Several people had taken a tumble, including one of the angling club members during a recent fish release at the lake.
“The strong winds of St Patrick’s Day also snapped one of the pontoon hinges, leaving it floating there at a 45 degree angle.”
As a precaution SBFC members met with Camperdown Angling Club members on Saturday to disconnect the sloped access ramps and block the two wooden jetties to pedestrian traffic.
SBFC member Philip Russell said the jetties were simply too dangerous as they were.
“Safety is the most important thing,” he said.
“We had raised the issue with a number of authorities but failed to get a response, so we saw no other option other than to close them to use.”
Camperdown Angling Club member Russell Picket then launched a social media campaign to rally support for the jetties to be repaired and reopened.
“We had some really great support from the angling community, particularly VRFish (Victorian Recreation Fishing, the state’s largest angler representative body),” he said.
“Then we noticed that a couple of State Government departments had picked up on the issue, which was a great result.”
The Victorian Fisheries Authority (VFA) contacted the SBFC and advised that funding was available to provide an immediate fix for the two jetties.
VFA project officer Anthony McGrath said Lake Bullen Merri was an “incredibly important waterway for Australian anglers”.
“We’ve released over 100,000 fish into the lake as part of our Target One Million program,” he said.
“We knew there were some issues with the lake’s jetty and ramps, but then it became obvious through the social media campaign that they had got to a critical point.”
Mr McGrath said the VFA had already provided $10,000 towards the development of long-term upgrades at the lake’s boat ramp.
“That plan has been completed and we will now work with the South Beach Foreshore Committee to find the funding to deliver it,” he said.
Mr McGrath said the immediate works were a “quick common sense solution to keep people fishing”.
“All the groups involved – the local angling club, the foreshore committee, VRFish and the VFA – have worked really well together to get a quick solution and keep the jetties safe and accessible for all the community,” he said
Camperdown carpenter Gary Doyle will carry out the initial repair works, which will see the main wooden jetties lowered to allow for a safer gradient on the access ramp to the floating pontoons.
Mr McGrath also advised the SBFC to seek out quotes for the provision of concrete to extend the two boat ramps as part of the short-term repair works.