Bushfire recovery from an environmental perspective.
The Bega Valley Shire was heavily affected by fires which occurred in early 2020 with impacts seen across several catchments with approximately 4000km2 burnt. The bushfires have left large areas of foreshore and steep terrain devoid of groundcover and susceptible to erosion and weed invasion. There are significant risks to water quality due to increased rates of runoff and erosion resulting in increased turbidity, altered pH and reduced dissolved oxygen. These impacts will be exacerbated in the closed ICOLLS with flow on negative impacts to industry, tourism and recreational activity.
Council will undertake works across Wallaga Lake, Bermagui River, Cuttagee Lake, Murrah River, Bega River, Shadrachs River, Nullica River, Towamba River, Fisheries Creek and Wonboyn River.
This project aims to reduce post fire impacts on estuary health across the Bega Valley, initially through installation of sediment and erosion controls and bank stabilisation works. Habitat restoration works including weed control, revegetation and water quality monitoring is to be carried out over a three-year period.
The extent of fire damage has resulted in large areas of bare forest floor covered in ash and debris, with no groundcover to help bind the soil. In large portions of these catchments, the terrain is steep and fire has burnt to the edge of rivers and the estuary foreshore in many areas. Significant impacts to water quality following bushfire are primarily due to increased rates of catchment runoff and erosion. Depending on the magnitude of the rainfall event, sediment and ash carried in runoff can result in increased turbidity, altered pH and reduced dissolved oxygen. Nutrients and metals bound in soils are also likely to be washed into the estuary and may be a concern. The effects of a significant rainfall event post-bushfire may result in detrimental impacts to seagrass communities due to sedimentation, a higher risk of fish kill due to reduced levels of dissolved oxygen, and elevated nutrient concentrations with potential to stimulate algal growth.
These works will help to protect the local environment by reducing inputs into the estuary, maintaining water quality and restoring habitat leading to long term sustainability of the estuaries.
Given the vulnerability of estuary systems and ICOLLs, it is essential for Council to implement these proposed works in order to reduce the risk of impact on, not only the health of estuaries, but the economic and social benefit these ecosystems provide.
The project is being funded from the NSW DPIE Coastal and Estuary Grants Program (Busfire affected coastal waterways Program) and Council.
This project is connect to Council's Community Strategic Plan through Outcome 3; Goal 5; Strategy 10.
$5 million for bushfire affected areas
The NSW Government announces that $5 million will be distributed to six councils to ease the impact of the recent bushfires on coastal waterways.
Phone: (02) 6499 2179
Council has identified locations for the first stage of works and prioritised sites which pose a high risk to estuary health. A key part of the project is the focus on sites in close proximity to town/village centres with the aim of helping recovery of residents and in areas which are safely accessible.
Visit our individual catchment pages to find out what the focus will be for each catchment.