Original story by Gregor Heard, Stock and Land
- Fishermen and local residents unite
- Push for emergency allocation of water to save fish stocks
- Government at this stage unlikely to approve request
- Local water authority says running channel to Toolondo not an option
FISHING enthusiasts, together with the local community are fighting hard to save fish stocks in Lake Toolondo in the south-west Wimmera.
A group has been formed with two goals, in the long-term to shore up the future of the lake, described as the most important trout fishery in mainland Australia, and in the short-term to get an emergency allocation of 5000 megalitres of water to stop fish from dying.
One of the spokesmen for the group, Trevor Holmes, said the immediate challenge was to save trout stocks within the lake.
“The lake was restocked in 2011, and it seems silly to make that investment and then just let the fish die, when they can easily be saved with a relatively small amount of water.”
In the longer term, Mr Holmes said he wanted to see a minimum level retained in Toolondo where possible.
“It is a storage and does not evaporate quickly, so by putting in water you are not jeopardising the region’s water security.”
Mr Holmes said Toolondo had a much more significant eco-system than Rocklands, which is the region’s major storage.
“Rocklands is full of carp and does not support the same ecology you get at Toolondo.”
He said Toolondo was not only important for sporting fish but had healthy populations of native fish, eastern long necked turtles, yabbies and water-based birds and insects.
The group is lobbying Victorian Minister for Water Peter Walsh on the matter.
A petition on online petition platform www.change.org has over 1300 signatories and a Facebook group has over 1100 members.
However, thus far there has been little progress.
Minister Walsh said decisions for Toolondo’s management were made by the local water authority, Grampians Wimmera Mallee (GWM) Water.
“While the Victorian Government recognises Lake Toolondo has been providing some great fishing opportunities for recreational fishers, it is vital that the Wimmera-Mallee system is managed responsibly and as a whole,” Mr Walsh said.
“The stock and domestic supply of local landholders could be jeopardised if more water is transferred into Lake Toolondo for recreational fishing, given the current levels of Rocklands Reservoir.
“While in the past few years flooding rains have allowed for transfers from Rocklands Reservoir into Lake Toolondo, it would be irresponsible to transfer water under current conditions.”
GWM Water spokesman Andrew Rose said the short-term allocation of water would not be a prudent move.
“The water losses in running water up the open channel from Rocklands to Toolondo would be massive.”
He also said Toolondo was not a preferred storage, not because of evaporation issues as in other GWM storages popular for recreation usage, such as Lake Lonsdale near Stawell, but because of topography.
“It’s true we can get water out of Toolondo, but when it gets to a certain level we need to pump it out, which obviously will increase costs.”
Mr Holmes disputed the water security argument.
“On our calculations, based on current water levels, running the 5000mL up to Toolondo would only drop Rocklands by 3cm.”
President of the Horsham Fly Fishers and Trout Anglers Club Gary Marlow said having lived through the Millennium Drought, which crippled the Wimmera from 1997 to 2007, he understood the importance of water security.
However, he said transferring water to Toolondo was not a risk at current storage levels.
“We understand if there is just no water about then it couldn’t be done, but we believe this lake has significance from an environmental, economic and recreational perspective and should be maintained.”
Both Mr Marlow and Mr Holmes questioned water management practices, such as summer environmental flows down the Wimmera and Glenelg Rivers.
“If we are trying to mimic the natural catchment patterns, then I don’t think you would have seen water running during our dry summers,” Mr Holmes said.
He said he realised the difficulties in getting the group’s requests through given the current water management framework.
“Longer-term, we’re certainly going to be working to get a more common sense approach to managing water resources.
“I know everyone wants their own lake filled, but in the case of Toolondo, there is a really strong argument, this lake has a massive reputation among the fishing community as a showcase trout fishery and we believe it can be filled without impacting on water security throughout GWM’s area.