THE $13.5 million Gunbower Forest Construction Project could be used at other sites along the Murray River, according to project manager Anna Chatfield.
The project started construction last month after 10 years of collaboration between the North Central Catchment Management Authority (CMA), the Victorian and Australian governments, the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, Parks Victoria and Goulburn-Murray Water.
Ms Chatfield said the final plan, which was narrowed down from 12 original concepts, used engineering structures to mimic natural water flow.
Two-hundred gigalitres of water will be diverted into the wetlands from Gunbower Creek, replicating natural flooding patterns.
The CMA will be able to control how much water goes into the forest, depending on how much natural rain it has received during the season.
Two-thirds of the water will flood through the wetlands back down into the Murray River.
“It’s an efficient use of water,” Ms Chatfield said.
“We will work out what the forest needs, and can control and target water. It’s a considered process.”
Ms Chatfield said the project would protect the breeding habitat of waterbirds, and protect fish and vegetation found in the Gunbower Forest.
CMA chief executive officer Damian Wells said it was vital to act now before the forest began to gradually deteriorate.
“In decades we might see the death of trees and the deterioration of the tree canopies,” he said.
Mr Wells said the project could be mimicked at other sites.
Forest to get vital water
Construction on a $13.5 million project to improve the long-term health of Gunbower Forest is now under way.
The Flooding for Life project is aimed at transporting large volumes of environmental water.
It will include a one-kilometre channel along Hipwell Road to deliver water from Gunbower Creek to the forest, a bridge where Island Road crosses the channel and a weir and fishway in Gunbower Creek.
The project, co-ordinated by the North Central Catchment Authority, Goulburn-Murray Water, the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, Parks Victoria and the Department of Sustainability and Environment, is expected to take 12 months to complete.
NCCMA chief executive officer Damian Wells said a lack of flooding in the area due to river regulation and climate change had affected the health of the forest.
“Regular floods of various sizes are required to maintain healthy and functioning ecological communities in Gunbower Forest,” he said.
“The works being constructed will allow approximately 5000 hectares of the forest to be flooded, including a third of the River Red Gum communities and most of the forest wetlands.
“They will also give us the flexibility to water smaller sections of the forest when less environmental water is available and to mimic the natural variability of flooding.”
Mr Wells said the project had been 10 years in the making.
“The start of construction is the culmination of 10 years of work by the agencies involved, including intensive scientific investigations, hydraulic modelling, community consultation and a range of statutory approvals.”