Did you know its been over 80 years since all sized fish could make their way into Eckert’s Creek (shown above) and back into the Main River Murray System? Well that is about to change…
About the project
The Katfish Demonstration Reach project is a community environmental rehabilitation project that encompasses the Katarapko and Eckert Creek area in the Riverland region of South Australia. The project aims to manage the health and condition of the Katarapko anabranch systems, as well as the floodplains and wetlands that surround the area. The following key objectives are at the forefront of our work:
Removal of major barriers to native fish
In 2016, at one of our main inlets into Eckert’s Creek, a project was conducted to remove a large cement pipe and earth embankment. There was very little water flowing into the Eckert’s Creek System and impossible for fish to make their way into the creek or the river through the cement pipe. With the development of the Bank J regulator and fish way structure, water flow down the creek system has tripled from what it was before. The fishway also allows for small, medium, and large sized fish to make their way into the creek system and also to come back through to the River Murray safely. Our aim is to continue to remove these barriers and key threats to the Katarapko area to ensure that we have a healthy ecosystem into the future.
Managed floodplain inundations
Prolonged dry conditions, river regulation and reduced frequency of natural floods has caused a decrease in the health and condition of the Katarapko Floodplain. This area is unique and special and we don’t want to witness its decline, so we have come up with a solution to help build the resilience back again. We will be installing new regulators at key locations across the floodplain which will allow us to push water out across 1,100 hectares of land. This is the equivalent to a medium-sized natural flood. A bank is also being built along parts of the access track which will hold water onto the floodplain to benefit the soil, river red gums, black box and other vegetation that are dependent on flooding.
This will be of huge benefit for the Floodplain ecology, and vegetation by having the ability manage the water level regimes and create a cycle of wetting and drying which naturally would have occurred frequently. Watering on the floodplains will improve the condition of existing floodplain flora, and support the recruitment of new cohorts of young trees such that the tree community is sustainable or resilient over the long-term. Healthy trees can also survive the dry times better than stressed trees.
Regular pulse flows through the system
Introducing regular higher water flows through the creek systems at Katarapko will benefit the native fish. Faster flowing habitat benefits the large bodied native fish including the Murray Cod. Faster flows improve the water quality and provide a refresh for the vegetation living along the creek beds. We hope to do a spring pulse every year to reintroduce the variability within the creeks which is what would have occurred naturally prior to the introductions of Locks and Weirs. By raising the water levels it allows for flood runners and low lying depressions to be inundated with the rising water levels which provides habitat for bugs, frogs and birds.
Increase in native fish populations
The removal of major barriers within Eckerts creek has improved the fish passage allowing native fish to breed and move into different areas of the creeks and wetlands. Introducing regular pulse flows which is a queue for breeding patterns for fish which leads to increasing the fish population.
The water flow will be altered by operating the new regulators within Katarapko. Some of the regulators also have a fishway which allows for fish of all sizes to pass through the system and back out to the River Murray. Water flow regulation has been improved at Katarapko with the support of the structures in place. This has also improved the connectivity between the River Murray and the anabranch systems.
Through community participation, ongoing maintenance and conservation, and government funding, Katfish Reach has established itself as a successful Demonstration Reach within the South Australian Murray-Darling Basin (SA MDB) region. The project has undertaken extensive planning, design, community engagement and publicity to support the long-term direction of Katfish Reach, and created a strong foundation for the next phases of the project.
With the support and funding received from the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) in 2018/2019, it has been invested in undertaking fish surveys and data monitoring throughout Eckerts creek and Katarapko Creek. There has been a huge investment within Eckerts Creek over the last 10 years with removal of major fish barriers and flow velocities. By having the opportunity to collate this information has provided us with the required materials to showcase the impact and success of the investments within the community.
We have created promotional materials to share with our local community, general public, and interested stakeholder which includes a short video clip of the fish surveys being completed at Katfish Reach, information package on how we are making a difference at Katfish Demonstration Reach and Katarapko, and a poster which highlights all the key findings from the fish surveys.
For more information, download the Making a difference at Katarapko and Katfish Reach slides. or contact Ellee Eleftheriadis, Communications and Community Engagement Officer – Pike and Katarapko. Ellee.Eleftheriadis2@sa.gov.au
Learn more about the Katfish Demonstration Reach project here or by watching the video below: