Thomson River Fishway complete

Work to construct a fishway on the Thomson River near the Horseshoe Bend Tunnel, to allow seasonal migration of native fish has been completed by the West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority (WGCMA).

The new fishway will allow access to the upper Thomson and Aberfeldy rivers to native fish for the first time in a century. The Thomson River is one of the region’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.

“This has been quite a journey for all of us, including the community who have been passionate in their advocacy for the site. The community’s input has greatly shaped the final design and construction of the new fishway which will allow native fish, like the threatened Australian grayling, to freely migrate upstream for the first time since the construction of the tunnel, more than 100 years ago,” said CEO of the WGCMA Martin Fuller.

The public access walking track will be open to the public once again from Saturday August 31st.

“We’re delighted to have the site walking track reopened, which allows people to both get a closer look at the historic tunnel but also to see the fishway,” added  Mr Fuller.

Visitors to the site will see a newly constructed path which allows access to upstream sections of the track, stepping-stones to allow walkers to make a crossing of the river as well as picnic tables for day trippers.  Every effort has been made to retain the original ruggedness of the walking experience that existed prior to the work commencing. Visitors will still need to have good fitness and take care whilst on site.

The construction phase required disruption to the area. However, every effort has been made to keep disruption to a minimum by restricting the works to smaller machines and keeping soils and rocks moved through the construction process on site.

Initial rehabilitation of the site has been carried out and will continue over the next three years with monitoring of the site also being carried out over that time. “This is really the start of the rehabilitation process and we and the land mangers Department of Environment Land Water and Planning and Parks Victoria are committed to ensure the natural rehabilitation continues over the coming years,” added Mr Fuller.

The Horseshoe Bend Tunnel is four kilometres from Walhalla on the Thomson River. It was built in 1911 and 1912 to drain water from the Thomson at Horseshoe Bend to allow for alluvial mining of the riverbed. It gained heritage status in 2002.

The fishway is 200 meters long and has been built so that at least 60% of the water moves through the tunnel.  Through clever design work the split ensures the heritage value of the tunnel isn’t compromised but the new experience of a permanent flowing river and fish passage are new features of the visitor experience.

“We are confident that we’ve got the balance right with this project and thank the community members including the Friends of the Horseshoe Bend Tunnel group, the Hannaford family and others who have had input into the planning and construction phase,” concluded Mr Fuller.

Published Thursday August 29th 2019