STAWELL - Concerns by the Lake Lonsdale Action Group over the continuous draining of water from the lake, have been raised with the Minister for Sport and Recreation, Hugh Delahunty.
Action Group president, Ray Howard, said in a letter to Minister Delahunty, that he believed the Wimmera Mallee Pipeline completion should ensure water is available to everyone, but this had definitely not been the case.
Mr Howard met with Water Minister Peter Walsh and representatives from GWM Water, Wimmera Catchment Management Authority and Northern Grampians Shire Council in Horsham yesterday to further outline his concerns and call for a stop to the draining of water from Lake Lonsdale, at least until after the Easter tourism period.
He said his key concern was that water releases were due to commence again on the Labour Day weekend in March, which would render the lake dry.
Lonsdale is currently at just 25% of capacity, compared with 72% at the same time last year.
"Our hope is to stop the water from flowing, so enough water is left in the lake for both environmental and social purposes," Mr Howard said.
"We need the water in Lake Lonsdale through the Easter tourism period. If the flows start up again, there will be nothing left. Tourism will suffer and so too will the environmental protection of the lake."
Mr Howard has long campaigned for water to be taken from other lakes in the region, some of which are close to full, for the purposes of environmental flows.
In his letter to Mr Delahunty, Mr Howard raised a number of questions about Lonsdale and the system as a whole.
"Since the construction of the Wimmera Mallee Pipeline, which should ensure water for all water uses in the region, the availability of water has drastically diminished," Mr Howard said.
"With the introduction of the Maximum Operational Level to Lakes Lonsdale, Toolondo and Rocklands Reservoir and also the decommissioning of Pine Lake, the region has lost 221,382 megalitres of valuable water. With the completion of the Wimmera Mallee Pipeline, water should be ensured for everyone. So why does Lake Lonsdale need to be periodically drained?
"Our community is paying for recreational water that we are not receiving. Why? It seems that we continue to get the raw end of the deal as far as lakes and water goes.
"While we applaud the infrastructure of recreational and boating facilities in our region, we would question you why many hundreds of thousands of dollars has been spent in your electorate, on facilities at Taylors and Green lakes and also the Wimmera River in Horsham, while prime recreational and important tourist lakes such as Lakes Lonsdale and Bellfield, have completely missed out.
"Lakes and water recreational activities are not only a popular local recreation but also an important aspect of attracting much needed tourism to our area."
Mr Howard also pointed out the importance of tourism to the wider Grampians region, not just Stawell.
"Tourism is our biggest industry," he said.
"Grampians Tourism estimates that tourism in the Grampians region injects $280 million into the region's economy annually. Lakes are a hugely popular resource for recreation and tourism.
"As you have stated at the Picnic Bend Boat Ramp Upgrade announcement, "Boating is a popular pastime and we have some magnificent waterways in the Wimmera, which are enjoyed by many locals and attract thousands of tourists each year".
"Lakes Lonsdale and Bellfield are central to the Grampians Tourism Hub of Halls Gap , so why has no recreational and boating infrastructure been spent on either of these lakes? "As it is, we cannot even use Lake Bellfield for safe boating, as no boats fitted with outboard motors are permitted to use the lake. Lake Bellfield should immediately be opened to permit power boats (even with a restricted speed limit).
"Lake Fyans, which is currently holding 11,760ML is at the point of not being able to safely launch boats. The mariner is on the borderline of being too low to use. The public boat ramp situated on the east side of the lake next to the caravan park, which was constructed with public funds, is shut off to the public by a locked gate. The only other alternative for boaters is to launch off Kelly's Beach, which is unsafe as this is a popular swimming area frequently used by young children.
"Also Lake Fyans is far too small to cater for tourists as well as local recreational activities. How does this promote tourism and recreation?"
Mr Howard said he was also concerned that funding had been allocated for improvement works at Lake Lonsdale more than 12 months ago, but works were yet to be carried out.
"Lake Lonsdale was awarded $42,000 over a year ago for works to be done at the boat ramp. Nothing as yet has been done. Why not?" he said.
"Where has the money gone? We hope it hasn't gone to the construction of a second boat ramp that is being constructed at Taylors Lake.
"So, why Minister are we not getting equal recreation facilities? Our community paid our share of the construction of the Wimmera Mallee Pipeline, yet we get no benefits. Instead we get our prime lake drained and no recreational infrastructure for our region.
"We buy our watercraft, pay for our boat operators licence, boat registration, boat trailer registration and yet we have no facilities to use."