Lake’s life hangs in the balance
Greens Lake is likely to go dry before any decisions are made (or changed) about the delivery of environmental water to the site.
The lake near Corop was holding only about 13 per cent of its capacity last week, and it’s likely to become drier this summer.
Since Goulburn-Murray Water decided to cease using the lake as an irrigation storage and stopped filling it,the waterway has been shrinking.
Probably not the prettiest waterway in northern Victoria, with little vegetation and not many trees, the lake is still home to native fish, animals and birds, including the iconic brolga.
When Country News visited the lake recently, there were some dedicated holiday makers occupying free camp sites on the edge of the lake.
Only a few years ago a new toilet and shower block were built for campers.
About 10 brolgas were seen strutting along the lake’s edge, but took to the air as soon as we disturbed them.
Regular visitors to the lake say the birds don’t breed there, but are often seen feeding in the shallows, along with black swans, ducks, plovers and other waterbirds.
Locals who visit Greens Lake are worried it will go the same way as nearby Lake Cooper, which was once home to the Victorian Water Ski Association headquarters butis now mostly dry.
G-MW actually owns most of the lake, with some portions belonging to the Crown, but its future is squarely in the hands of the Victorian Government, which has recently closed a consultation process.
The government has raised the prospect of the lake being converted to natural wetlands, perhaps managed by First Nations people.
The proposed management plan would see the land transferred to the Taungurung Nation, with a management-transition plan and the lake would be managed as part of an integrated Corop Lakes wetland complex.
Camping may continue on the site.
The draft action plan for the lake suggests that the lake could receive environmental water in conjunction with management of the Corop Lakes complex.
Gaynor Swamp is so far the only wetland in the complex that has receivedenvironmental water.
Fishers like Aub Reddrop, from Kyabram, cannot understand why the lake cannot enjoy the same benefit of environmental water as other waterways.
He says while more environmental water is being generated, northern Victoria is seeing a reduction in waterways, with the changes to Lake Mokoan and the drying out of Lake Cooper.
Former City of Greater Shepparton Mayor Denis Patterson is frustrated and disgusted with the current state of affairs for the lake.
“We are gradually losing more and more wetlands from northern Victoria,” Mr Patterson said.
State Member for Shepparton Suzanna Sheed has called on the Commonwealth and Victorian Environmental Water Holders to supply Greens Lake with environmental water to prevent a fish kill.
Ms Sheed declared her disappointment that the health of the popular recreational spot had come to this point.
“I have been asking the Victorian Government and both the Commonwealth and Victorian Environmental Water Holders to fill the lake since its degeneration in 2020, but they seemed to feel it was unnecessary,” Ms Sheed said.
Independent candidate for Nicholls Rob Priestly has called on the Federal Government to explain how it is going to save Greens Lake.
“This is a real test of how much the Liberal-Nationals government cares about people in this electorate,” Mr Priestly said.
“Greens Lake is a really important community asset, and it should remain available to our local communities.”
He said the decision also condemned to waste recent investments in the lake for recreational use.
The closure of Greens Lake, a legacy of the Connections project, has generated 8.3 gigalitres of water savings for the Murray-Darling Basin.
At current prices for water entitlements on the Goulburn system, that volume of water would cost more than $33 million to buy.
Whatever the outcome of short-term ownership changes, the lake still faces a struggle (like Lake Cooper)in being recognised as having environmental value.
“At this stage there are no plans to deliver environmental water to Greens Lake,’’ a government statement said.
The Victorian Environmental Water Holder says the same thing and adds: “The environmental values of Greens Lake are expected to benefit from the more natural wetting and drying cycle now in place”.
“We understand the Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority will work with partners to investigate opportunities to restore natural surface water flow paths to Greens Lake,” the statement from VEWH said.
“This will help maximise the water that enters the lake in wetter years and it will improve its health and functioning.”
The Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder’s office told Country News its office works hand in hand with the VEWH, including taking advice on priority waterways that needed environmental water in Victoria.
“The CEWO will continue to liaise with VEWH on any reviews of the ecological benefits of delivering environmental water to the lake and its alignment with future management objectives, including those identified by Taungurung Land and Waters Council,” the Commonwealth office said.
G-MW has engaged contractors to recover native fish from the lake and transfer them to other waterways, but the job ended on Friday, March 11.