Honouring the past and creating a future at Horseshoe Bend

West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority (WGCMA) has applied to Heritage Victoria for a heritage permit which will allow it to proceed the Thomson River Fishway to tender.

WGCMA Chief Executive Officer, Martin Fuller, said the heritage application was an important stage of the project.

“The current project will not go ahead unless a heritage permit is granted,” said Mr Fuller.

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 to the Victorian alpine region is a state priority.

“A new fishway will unlock vast reaches of the upper Thomson and Aberfeldy rivers to endangered native fish for the first time in a century,” continued Mr Fuller.

“The migratory movements of the Australian grayling have been stopped by the heritage listed Horseshoe Bend tunnel since its construction by gold miners in the early 1900s.

“The turbulent flows at the downstream end of the tunnel prevent passage by small native fish. The new fishway will see some flows return to the original river course, with natural eddies and pools constructed to provide respite for fish as they journey upstream as part of their breeding cycle.”

Extensive consultation has been carried out to ensure the fishway balances the significant heritage and cultural values of the site with environmental improvement objectives.

A project steering committee of community, local government and WGCMA representatives commissioned several designs and investigations before settling on a solution that shares the flows between the original river course and the tunnel.

“We’re grateful to have received considerable input and involvement from the community including members of the Hannaford family and the Friends of Horseshoe Bend Tunnel,” said Mr Fuller.

“Their contribution and our extensive research has ensured the project can be done while protecting the historical importance of the area.

“We hope the community will remain involved as we progress through to the next phase of the project and we will make every effort to keep lines of communication open.

“To this end, we’re encouraging community members to give feedback to the Heritage Council on our permit application,” continued Mr Fuller.

Submissions will be accepted by Heritage Victoria during the assessment period. WGCMA will publish the details on its website when the submission period opens.

“Being granted a permit from Heritage Victoria would represent an important endorsement of the project design and the balance we have struck between environmental and heritage values,” said Mr Fuller.

“If necessary, we’re prepared to make modifications to the current project design to meet requirements set out by Heritage Victoria.”

For more information on the Thomson River Fishway please click here.