Fight for Lonsdale

Northern Grampians Shire Council is seeking action from the State Government over the continued draining of Lake Lonsdale.

Council has requested an urgent meeting with the Premier, Denis Napthine and Water Minister Peter Walsh, to discuss concerns raised by the Lake Lonsdale Action Group, in a letter to council.

The group has expressed its disappointment at a lack of commitment by both GWM Water and the Wimmera Catchment Management Authority to guarantee water levels for both Lake Fyans and Lake Lonsdale to allow for recreational activities during the summer months.

It also believes safety is being jeopardised by the constant draining of Lake Lonsdale. Water is currently being taken from Lake Lonsdale for environmental flows into Mt William Creek, which has raised further concerns for the Lake Lonsdale Action Group.

The group is questioning why Mt William Creek is suddenly included on the environmental flows for the Victorian Environmental Water Holders Seasonal Watering Plan when it has never been in the plan before.

Cr Paul Russell, in his final meeting on council before announcing his resignation late last week, agreed with the concerns raised by the Lake Lonsdale Action Group and said he had simply had enough.

"I have heard over the last 12 months that this council has been continuously lobbying and advocating with GWM Water and the Wimmera CMA to have more water in our lakes," Cr Russell said.

"Twelve months later, we're getting the same answer, it's not us it's the other one.

"I am quite happy to meet with them (authorities) but I would also like to add a second point that we write to the Minister and Premier and meet with them as well.

“It appears GWM Water and Wimmera CMA continuously treat us like fools. I don’t like being made a food of, especially when it happens continuously.”

Cr Russell said he was quite happy for water from the region’s lakes to be used for the purposes of environmental flows and he understood the purposes of that.

However, he said the Lake Lonsdale Action Group raised some excellent points in their letter seeking support for guaranteed levels over summer.

“The group raises some extremely valid points about other lakes in the area,” he said.

“We had a release from Bellfield recently and where did that water go? Straight up to the Wimmera River and there happened to be a water skiing event on that same weekend.

“There seems to be a lot of these coincidences happening when there are events on like the fishing competition in Horsham. I’m happy they are doing that, but we need to look after our area as well, just as the Lake Lonsdale Action Group quite rightly says.

“Lake Lonsdale is a premier lake and I’ve never seen it full in my time here apart from the floods and I would like to. I’d love get the boat out there and do some fishing, but not with the way they keep draining water out of it.

“I can see that our continuous lobbying of GWM Water and the Wimmera CMA is a waste of time. We would be better off going over their heads. It’s just very frustrating.”

Cr Murray Emerson said he believed the authorities should learn to share the water around more.

“There is plenty of water around at the moment. Lake Bellfield is about 80% full and Fyans is pretty close to the top, so why can’t GWM Water share it around a bit better,” he said.

“They can give a bit to environmental flows in the Wimmera River and a bit to the lakes in Horsham so they can run their skiing contests and then they can share a bit around with the rest of us.”

Council’s Director Marketing and Community, Jim Nolan, said the Lake Lonsdale Action Group had been very concerned with the constant release of water from Lake Lonsdale.

“The group suggests that high water storage levels at other storage lakes such as Lake Bellfield and Rocklands provide options for the way in which the water supply needs can be met, without resorting to reducing Lake Lonsdale to critically low levels,” he said.

“It is likely that recreational water activities will be significantly impacted by the falling water levels, not only due to the releases, but significantly due to the evaporation issues.

“Apart from the impact on the recreational values there is concern that low water levels could impact on fish stock towards the end of summer and in autumn as water temperature increases and levels drop.”

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