Blue-green disgrace

More frequent and more intense algae outbreaks at Lake Bullen Merri has destroyed the lake’s reputation as a summer holiday destination according to local fish farmer and habitat researcher Stephen Mueller.

LAKE Bullen Merri’s debilitating blue-green algae problems will never be fixed unless a single body is put in charge of the waterway, according to Fishsticks fish farmer and habitat researcher Stephen Mueller.

Closed to recreational use since November last year due to an algae outbreak, the lake has been off limits to users for the entire school holiday period.

“This issue has been going on for so many years that visitors have completely crossed Lake Bullen Merri off the list in terms of places to stay during the summer months,” he said.

“It used to be full of people having great fun fishing, skiing, kayaking and swimming – the caravan park would be full and the businesses in Camperdown would all benefit.

“Look at it now; you wouldn’t put your big toe in it.

“The powers that be should hang their heads in shame.”

Blue-green algae at Lake Bullen Merri gathers along the shorelines according to which direction the wind blows from.

Mr Mueller said he had contacted numerous authorities including the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP), the Corangamite Catchment Management Authority (CCMA) and Corangamite Shire Council about the state of the lake and the need to take action.

“Some of them haven’t even replied and the ones that did, just passed the buck to other organisations,” he said.

“No-one’s taking responsibility and until they do, the algae problem is just going to get worse and worse.”

Mr Mueller said it was widely known that excessive nutrient input into waterways was the main cause of algae blooms.

“The first step to healing the lake is to get the farms out of the bowl (crater slopes), because the majority of nutrients comes from pasture fertilisers and cow manure,” he said.

“More common than not, excess fertiliser is applied to pastures which is then washed into the lake as run-off when it rains.

“I’m not against farming. I grew up on a farm and know how hard it is, but as it is the lake is acting as a holding dam for their manure.

“We have to get the farmers out of the bowl and pay them out for the loss of their land and income – at this point in time they’d probably be very happy to receive a cheque for a couple of hundred thousand dollars.”

Fishsticks fish farmer and habitat researcher Stephen Mueller.

Mr Mueller said more trees and grasses should then be planted around the crater slopes to take up excess nutrients and to slow their flow into the lake.

“Then you have to somehow get the nutrients that are already in the water out of the water to prevent or reduce future blooms,” he said.

One idea put forward is the introduction of a floating weed that would feed off the nutrients, such as the azolla plant, which could then be progressively removed.

Another option is to run the lake’s water continually through biofilter trenches made up of thick native grasses and plants which would take up the nutrients.

“Getting rid of the nutrients already in the lake would take a lot of sorting out, but there are options,” Mr Mueller said.

“DELWP and the other authorities in control of the lake should be pursuing these options, but they just don’t seem motivated to act.

“We can’t do anything while the manager is a five-headed cow passing the buck to each other.

“Lake Bullen Merri is an iconic lake. It’s a national wonder and its right here on Camperdown’s doorstep – we need action now to make it great again.”

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