River Health Update

What’s Happening to the Macleay River?

The Macleay ‘EcoHealth’ Project Report was released earlier this year, the Macleay Catchment scored an overall C minus. The project (initiated by the Catchment Management Authority) aimed to provide base-line data to enable Local Councils and State Government agencies to effectively target environmental funding to fix the problems. For the full report click on the link http://www.kempsey.nsw.gov.au/environment/river-management/macleay-ecohealth-project.html

The Macleay catchment is under a number of environmental pressures.

In the upper catchment there are potential and current threats including: Past mining practices that have resulted in heavy metal (arsenic and antimony) contamination; stock grazing and fertiliser runoff from the agricultural sector impact on nitrate levels; there is concern about toxins leaching into the catchment from the Armidale land fill; and logging in the Styx River State Forest and other areas, impacting with sediment runoff.

The Gorge country’ then saves the day, re-oxygenating water and diluting Nitrates. But unfortunately, does not filter toxins and heavy metals coming down the river from past mining practices.

In the mid-catchment area, stock having access to the river causes erosion and fertiliser run-off adds to the nitrate levels. Also the impact of gravel extraction on the mobility of arsenic and antimony needs investigation. Dumping of rubbish and poor mine rehabilitation adds pressure, and recently there were reports of dead cattle being dumped in the river.

In the Estuary there are acid sulphate problems, caused by land drainage in low areas of acid sulphate soils. This causes severe degradation of aquatic life and dissolves oyster and other crustacean shells. There are hot spots of arsenic and antimony on the flood plains, deposited in floods.

There is good news…

The current operators at Hillgrove Mine, on the edge of the escarpment, have invested significantly in infrastructure to stabilise mineral waste and to manage water; there is currently an audit of derelict mines on the Macleay and some remediation work is planned; with SOMR’s assistance Southern Cross University are exploring the mobility of heavy metals in a long-term study.

The rehabilitation of the Yarrahapinni Wetlands demonstrates that a resurgence of fish populations and marine diversity is feasible and possible; North Coast Local Land Services’ proposed remediation of the Clybucca Wetlands, a major contributor of acid sulphate and low dissolved oxygen to the Estuary will lead to a significant boost to the fishing, oyster and tourist industries and create a habitat for migrating birds, as well as reduce ‘black water’ entering the restored Yarrahapinni Wetlands.

While there are some improvements, we (SOMR) are still concerned about the contamination sources and would like to know what actions Local and State Government bodies will take to protect and improve the quality of water in our catchment. In particular we are looking to Kempsey Shire Council and Armidale Regional Council and ask them to assert their authority when granting and monitoring DAs with potential impacts on the health of the Macleay River. 

And, importantly, we are considering what actions can we, as a community and Save Our Macleay River Inc, take to be part of the solution?

If you want to take part in finding solutions join SOMR http://www.saveourmacleayriver.com/

The beauty and the challenge of the river

The water levels were low, but the spirits were high, when about 50 canoe enthusiasts gathered last Saturday to paddle from Bellbrook to Nook.

Arthur Bain welcoming the paddlers

With thanks to the late Aunty Esther Quinlan, Arthur Bain Chairman of the community group Save Our Macleay River (SOMR), welcomed all in the Dhunghutti language and, following a local tradition, tossed a pebble in the river to announce the launch of the flotilla.

A variety of boats with canoeists of ages from 7 to over 70, braved the low and slow flowing river. Participants had to carry or pull their boats over several sections, but even the most fragile looking homebuilt canoe came through unscathed. As one paddler observed, fortunately the rocks were all washed round and smooth by the ever running waters.

Nerida navigating through the rapids

It was the fifth and longest paddle organised by SOMR, a group concerned about maintaining the health of the Macleay River. The completion of the course took between 4 to 5 hours. Everybody arrived with a smile and a sense of achievement and all agreed that there is no better way to experience and appreciate the beauty of the valley.

A video with drone footage and stills of the paddlers can be seen on https://youtu.be/PFiISHv4uMc

Everybody made it

Click on the photos to enlarge 

Paddle on the Macleay 2017

 

Saturday 9 September from Bellbrook to Nook Creek

The Paddle on the Macleay 2017 is a moderately challenging paddle on the Macleay River, of approximately 14km, beginning at Bellbrook Bridge and ending at the Nook Creek Bridge on Saturday 9th September.

It’s a great way to appreciate the beauty of our river, and to celebrate living on the Macleay.

Click here to download the registration form.  SOMR Paddle 2017 3  (It might take a moment.)