FILE PHOTO: A past fish kill at Belongil Creek.
FILE PHOTO: A past fish kill at Belongil Creek.

Weekend mission to prevent fish kill

AFTER an unsuccessful attempt on Friday to get Belongil Creek to open naturally to the ocean by scraping the sandbank back to water level, the council intervened to open the creek mouth manually with earthmoving equipment to manually open the creek mouth.

Water levels in the creek reached 1.25m on Saturday, causing flooding and inundation in parts of the Belongil catchment. As more rain was predicted over the weekend water levels were expected to get higher, prompting Byron Shire Council to open the sandbank that was blocking the creek mouth.

The council has a licence from the NSW Government to instigate ways to encourage the creek mouth to open when water heights reach 1.1 metres.

Belongil Creek is an ICOLL, an intermittently closed or open lake or lagoon, which opens to the ocean. When the sandbank closes the entrance to the creek, water levels build up and heighten the risk of flooding in the Belongil catchment.

“The management of ICOLLS like Belongil Creek are complex because any opening to the ocean can cause a fish kill because the sudden rush, or drawdown of water, can quickly strip the water of oxygen,” Phil Holloway, director Infrastructure Services, said.

“We have done everything we can to try to minimise this and we were hoping the scraping of the sandbank yesterday may have seen the creek open naturally but this didn’t happen.

“With the water levels in the creek so high we need to manage the risk of flooding with the Byron Bay CBD particularly vulnerable,” Mr Holloway said.

The council notified National Parks and Wildlife Service, the Arakwal Corporation, NSW Fisheries, the Cape Byron Marine Park and Crown Lands yesterday that it was starting work on opening Belongil Creek to open to the ocean.

The council staff are closely monitoring the situation at Belongil Creek.

For more information about ICOLLS visit www.byron.nsw.gov.au/Services/Environment/Coast-and-waterways/Estuaries-and-ICOLLs/Managing-ICOLLs. www.byron.nsw.gov.au/Services/Environment/Coast-and-waterways/Estuaries-and-ICOLLs/Managing-ICOLLs


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