STAWELL - Lake Lonsdale Action Group remains concerned over the financial impact the current Bulk Water Entitlements and Operational Rules for Lake Lonsdale will continue to have on Stawell's economy.
President Ray Howard said while meetings had been held with representatives from Grampians Wimmera Mallee Water, the Environmental Water Holder, the Wimmera Catchment Management Authority and the Northern Grampians Shire Council, the action group still had concerns.
"There are several major concerns that unless the current Bulk Water Entitlements and the Operational Rules for Lake Lonsdale are changed, then the cost to our community, businesses and traders will remain to be huge," Mr Howard said.
"At present, water from Lake Lonsdale is used for environmental flows for the Mt William Creek and the Wimmera River, with which we don't have any problems," he said.
"What is a concern is that Lake Lonsdale suffers the majority of these flows and is regularly drained to a point where we cannot use the lake for recreational purposes, thus we cannot promote tourism. We need the new Bulk Water Entitlements (BWE) and Operational Rules (OR) to allow for our community, businesses and traders to benefit through tourism in the future."
Mr Howard said he believed there was sufficient water in other storages across the region to maintain the environmental flows.
"The Wimmera Mallee Pipeline has a saving of approximately 102,000 megalitres to the Grampians Wimmera Mallee Water system," he said.
"The water storages for the Wimmera Mallee, including Rocklands Reservoir, can hold a capacity of 770,000ml. With the introduction of the Maximum Operating Levels (MOL) and the decommissioning of Pine Lake, the capacity of our storages has been reduced by approximately 201,000ml. We are now about 100,000 ml worse off.
"The capacity for Lake Lonsdale has been reduced from 65,500 ml to 53,300ml; a capacity loss of 12,200 ml. Water that could be used for the environment.
"It seems that the recent 10 year drought has not been heeded with our current management. The Maximum Operating Level for Lake Lonsdale should be immediately abolished so that we can retain more water for future dry periods."
Mr Howard said his group also felt that Lake Lonsdale should be included in the new Bulk Water Entitlements.
"Lake Lonsdale must be included into the new Bulk Water Entitlements so that we are able to benefit through the development and promotion of our tourism industry," Mr Howard said.
"Taxpayers from the Northern Grampians Shire have contributed our fair share into building the Wimmera Mallee Pipeline, but we do not receive any benefit at all from the pipeline as Lake Lonsdale is continually drained.
"Waterways play an important role in developing and promoting tourism. We only have to look at the impact and benefits that tourism brings to places like Lake Eildon and also the many towns and communities along the Murray River.
"Grampians Tourism considers Lake Lonsdale to be one of the jewels in the crown of our lake system. Survey work has shown it has attracted high visitation from both within Victoria and interstate. Since the drought the lake has enjoyed high usage by fishing and the recreational boating fraternity.
"The new BWE needs to ensure that enough water is retained in the lake to be able to develop our tourism so that our community, businesses and traders can also benefit.
"The use of the region's magnificent lake is a major contributor to our economy. Also important is the environmental damage continual draining of the lake does through not only fish stocks, but also the aquatic and flora and fauna aspects. The environment recovers from each time Lake Lonsdale is drained, but our tour operators, businesses and traders never make up the losses, as such, so does our community lose out. This is why we must retain water in the lake through the new BWE's and Operating Rules."
Mr Howard also raised several other issues of concern in the group's letter to Mr Helper, including the provision of recreational water for Green Lake in Horsham.
"We are aware that prior to the last state election, representatives from the Green Lake Action Group met with the current government and secured recreational water for Green Lake near Horsham," he said.
"We have no problem with Green Lake having recreational water. Since it has been filled it has been topped up several times and we also now understand that Green Lake will be included in the new Bulk Water Entitlements.
"It also greatly concerns us that the continual draining of Lake Lonsdale is a political issue. Is the decision to continually top Green Lake up for recreational purposes a directive of the water minister, or is it an initiative of GWM Water?
"We were informed by Mark Williams, chief executive officer of GWM Wwater at a recent meeting with GWM Water, the Wimmera CMA, the Environmental Water Holder, Northern Grampians Shire Council and ourselves that Green Lake was filled with recreational water because it is the lake of choice by the community of Horsham.
"So why have hundreds of thousands of dollars been recently been spent at Taylors Lake on boat ramps and other recreational facilities?
"Lake Lonsdale is the popular choice by our community, it is the peoples' lake, so why no water for our lake of choice?
"Also we are aware of the recent announcement of a huge grant for the recreation area for Green Lake by Minister Hugh Delahunty and also the million plus dollars that have been spent not only at Green Lake, but also at Taylors Lake and the Wimmera River at Horsham, while Lake Lonsdale, which is central to Grampians tourism, has for years been neglected except to recently install a breakwater at the boat ramp for safe boating reasons.
"It is obvious that Minister Hugh Delahunty's electorate has been well looked after while our Ripon electorate has been neglected."
The group has asked Mr Helper to take up these concerns with the Water Minister and secure the new Bulk Water Entitlements and workable Operating Rules, so that tourism, businesses, traders and the community can also benefit.