Saturday, 31 October 2015

Lake Condah restoration

Lake Condah, 2010. Copyright GHCMA
Once upon a time...

...Lake Condah was a lake, a big lake. It developed when lava flows from Mt Eccles (Budj Bim) flowed down the Darlot Creek valley and pushed the creek to the west. It all happened only 8000 years ago.

For hundreds of years the lake was a haven for life - fauna and flora. The Gunditjmara modified the lake a little by building eel traps for aquaculture.

In 1954 the lake was drained to mitigate flooding in agricultural areas north of the lake and for half a century the 'lake' was more or less dry. Local farmers grazed their cattle on the lake bed. Can you imagine the effect on birdlife, plants and aquatic creatures? The site was of huge significance to local Aboriginal culture but that was ignored.

The lake itself is owned by DELWP (except for a privately owned section in the north west) and the land surrounding the lake is owned by Mt Eccles National Park, the Gunditjmara and private property.

In 2004 the Budj Bim National Heritage Landscape was placed on the National Heritage List and is manged by the Gunditjmara people. This year there is a push, strongly supported by government, for the site to be recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage area.

In 2004 a restoration project for Lake Condah was commenced and in 2009 a weir was constructed, an "environmental bypass pipe, associated inlet and outlet structures, an automated flow control gate, and a 100 meter long rock chute incorporating a low flow fish passage", the design of which won an award for the construction company (Alluvium) in 2010. The project was a finalist in the Banksia Awards. The Museum organised a Bush Blitz there in 2011 and recorded many interesting plants and animals on the stony rises woodlands and the wetlands. The whole area is under the umbrella of the Clenelg Hopkins Catchment Management Authority.

Lake Condah in the foreground, stony rises, and Mt Eccles in the background.
Last week we went to have a look. It was a beautiful day, there was a lot of water in the lake and there were a lot of birds (numbers and species). Who needs to go to Kakadu when we have such a treasure in our own back yard? I didn't attempt a bird survey because a telescope would be essential.

There is still a lot of work to be done at Lake Condah. Weed control, fence post removal, monitoring of water flow and water quality and development of some tourist facilities (an amenities block was being constructed the day we visited). The Gunditjmara offer tours of this and other local areas of cultural significance. Go on. Treat yourself.

Sharp-tailed Sandpipers

Stilts, grebes and ducks. A lava tongue can be seen in the background.
The new weir that allows water flow to the Darlot Creek as well as the passage of fish.

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