Fishway contract awarded

Woods Environmental Services has been awarded the contract to re-connect the Thomson River by creating a fishway at Horseshoe Bend.

The successful tenderer was chosen by a panel of representatives from Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP), Baw Baw Shire Council (BBSC) and West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority (WGCMA).

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

Woods Environmental Services will now develop a Construction Environmental Management Plan and work is expected to start on the site in early 2019.

WGCMA’s Chair, Peter Jennings OAM, said the panel was impressed by Woods’ natural resource management credentials.

“Given the environmental and heritage values of this beautiful site, it is important that the successful contractor has experience in managing similar projects,” said Mr Jennings.

“Restoring the flow around the Horseshoe Bend will reconnect the upper reaches of the Thomson River. This is vital for improving the health of the river and will open up more than 80kms of new habitat for migratory fish species.”

Mr Jennings said due to the importance of the site, extensive research and community consultation was carried out to help finalise the fishway design.

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

“There has been a lot of rigor and due diligence throughout this process, to ensure the most feasible option was selected and all risks were considered and planned for.”

The project permit from Heritage Victoria is testament to this process and includes conditions to ensure the heritage values of the site were protected.

What’s at stake
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, who has extensive experience in farming, local government, the water industry and is actively involved in his local community at Toora. At their first meeting this week, the group was briefed on the project, the contractor and the timeline for the project. They also visited the site to inspect the project in more detail.

The Stakeholder Reference Group invitees included representatives from DELWP, Baw Baw Shire Council, Heritage Victoria, Parks Victoria, Environment Victoria, Tourism Gippsland, Friends of the Horseshoe Bend Tunnel (declined to participate), members of the Hannaford Family, Walhalla Board of Management, Walhalla and Mountain Rivers Association, Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation, and Gippsland Water.

Why a fishway?
The Thomson River is one of Gippsland’s most significant and ecologically important rivers, and the creation of a fishway to allow passage between the Gippsland Lakes and the Victorian alpine region is a state priority.

The fishway has been designed to look and function like a natural waterway. 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.

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

Horseshoe Bend Tunnel
Restoring the flow around the Horseshoe Bend will reconnect the upper reaches of the Thomson River