|While the Jeparit Easter Fishing Competition was a ‘virtual’ experience this year, locals undertaking their daily exercise are now enjoying the view of a flowing river with environmental flows reaching the downstream end of the Wimmera River for the first time since last spring.
And for new Jeparit residents and field naturalists Clive and Fay Gordes, the flow has taken their daily exercise to a whole new level.
Both keen observers of plants, Fay takes her camera on most outings to document the changes in water levels. But it’s the changes on the riverbanks which interests them the most.
“Everyone notices the changes in water levels, that’s obvious and it’s wonderful to see the extra water in the river, but there’s so much more going on that you don’t see at a casual glance,” Clive says. “It’s fascinating what remnant flora we’ve found around the river so far.”
Clive and Fay lived on French Island for more than 40 years before finding their perfect retirement spot in Jeparit. They are grateful for the slowing down in pace that self-isolation has brought.
“I’m finding a lot of plants I don’t know, and I’m finding some really rare things such as a mistletoe which is really common on French Island but it’s something we haven’t seen here before,” Clive says.
“What’s interesting about the mistletoe is that we’ve only found one and even more fascinating is that it has another mistletoe growing on it. This is a real rarity; we’ve only ever seen this once before around Mallacoota.”
They’ve also discovered a dianella lily, also a common plant but they’ve so far only found two.
Another exciting discovery was a solitary boobialla tree.
“Again these are relatively common across woodland environments in this region but we found this one really, really old tree. It is fascinating that it is here, all by itself.”
Clive says before the environmental flow arrived they were enjoying seeing small birds, rakali and wallabies on the mud flats along the edges of the river.
“These have all gone now and we will keep on seeing new things.
“It’s natural for water to come and go and there’s opportunities for flora and fauna in both wet and dry times.”
Autumn flowsAutumn flows are vital for refilling pools that endured a long hot summer. They also dilute saline water and the results are dramatic. For example, within a week of autumn environmental flows arriving at Tarranyurk north of Dimboola, salinity dropped from 45,000 µS/cm (nearly as salty as seawater) to 7000 µS/cm.
The autumn break has brought good rainfall across the Wimmera and we are hopeful that it will continue and provide natural flows to all our waterways. Wimmera River
Environmental flows will continue until the end of May to ensure that the salinity is effectively diluted rather than just moving the problem downstream. If we get good follow-up rain, the river will start flowing naturally and help consolidate the benefits.
Small flows are being released from water storages for the MacKenzie River, Burnt Creek and Mt William Creek to fill and refresh pools. Mild weather and rain are helping boost these benefits.
Autumn also signals the start of environmental water top-ups for small wetlands supplied by the Wimmera Mallee Pipeline in the Wimmera’s north and east.