Access to Horseshoe Bend closed

From the start of February until mid-2019 there will be no public access to Horseshoe Bend, while work is underway to create the Thomson River Fishway.

The site closure will affect the public access tracks and water-based activities, as there will be no through-access on the river between the Walhalla Bridge Road and Coopers Creek.

Martin Fuller, CEO of the West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority (WGCMA), said there were a range of measures in place to alert members of the public.

“In December we distributed flyers around the Walhalla area alerting visitors to the closure, and we’ve taken out ads in the local media,” said Mr Fuller.

“There is signage going up on-site and we’ll be using social media to get the message out.”

Parks Victoria, Department of Environment Land Water and Planning (DELWP), and Baw Baw Shire Council have also updated their online information.

Mr Fuller said the closure would not affect the Coopers Creek camping ground or other camping spots in the area.

“The site closure just means that people will not be able to use the current walking tracks at Horseshoe Bend. It will also impact on anyone using the river canoe trail.”

Once the work is complete the site will be reopened, however it is expected to take between three and five years for the area to fully rehabilitate.

Why a fishway?

The fishway has been designed to restore water flows around Horseshoe Bend, reconnecting the Thomson River.

“Restoring the flow around Horseshoe Bend will reconnect the upper reaches of the Thomson River,” explained Mr Fuller.

“This is vital for improving the health of the river and will open up more than 80kms of new habitat for migratory fish species.”

Because of the environmental and heritage values of the site, Mr Fuller said the project had involved extensive community consultation and research.

“We also sought input from many experts, including engineers, fish ecologists, geoscientists and landscape ecologists,” said Mr Fuller.

“There has been a lot of rigor and due diligence throughout this process.”

Mr Fuller said that Woods Environmental Services, the company creating the fishway, had extensive experience in managing similar projects and understood the heritage and environmental values of Horseshoe Bend.

“The fishway has been designed to look and function like a natural waterway,” he said.

“It will be created in the existing river bed and will help restore the river to its original appearance and preserve the heritage values of the site.”

The result will be a low flow and visually low-impact fishway that will look like a meandering waterway.

A Stakeholder Reference Group has been established to keep key groups up-to-date on the progress of the project. The group is independently chaired by Llew Vale OAM.

The Stakeholder Reference Group includes representatives from DELWP, Baw Baw Shire Council, Heritage Victoria, Parks Victoria, Environment Victoria, Tourism Gippsland, members of the Hannaford Family, Walhalla Board of Management, Walhalla and Mountain Rivers Association, Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation, and Gippsland Water.

In June this year, Heritage Victoria granted the WGCMA a permit to proceed with the Thomson River Fishway, subject to conditions.

For more information on the Thomson River Fishway please visit our website www.wgcma.vic.gov.au and follow the links from the homepage to the Thomson River Fishway Page.

Thomson River at Horseshoe Bend Tunnel
Work to create the Thomson River Fishway will start from 1st February and the access tracks around Horseshoe Bend and the river canoe trail will be closed to the public until mid-2019.