2009 – The River Murray – Providing Fish Passage from the Sea to Hume Dam

John Prentice, Jim Barrett, Dr Martin Mallen-Cooper

Located in south-eastern Australia, the River Murray has provided almost a century of regulated water supply, bringing immense benefit to human welfare during this period. However a healthy river is recognised as being essential to its sustainable future. With this in mind, in March 2001 the Murray- Darling Basin Ministerial Council approved several actions including “a structural works program to provide passage for migratory fish, from the sea to Hume Dam”. The paper outlines progress to-date on this ambitious fishway construction program.

The program involves building fishways on twelve of the fourteen weirs on the river, and at the barrages. The criteria established, to enable passage for all native fish species known to regularly migrate, are detailed. The important lessons learned from earlier fishways, and confidence gained from the Torrumbarry Weir vertical-slot fishways constructed in the 1990’s, have been applied to the new designs. Part way through the program, important changes were made to the design criteria, and the reasons for doing so are described.The fishways constructed at the barrages near the Murray mouth, and their need to respond to estuarine and lake conditions, are recognised. In addition, Mildura and Euston Weirs vary from the other River Murray structures, and their special fish passage consideration is described.

In achieving a successful outcome to date, the important role of river managers, engineers and scientists working together with design consultants is acknowledged. A tri-State monitoring and assessment program has been established to enable the questions about the short and long term outcomes of the program to be answered. The beneficial results to date are detailed.

This paper outlines the steps and challenges involved in delivering this decade long program, scheduled for completion in 2011.

Keywords: Sustainable, fishways, fish passage, native fish, hydraulics, fish monitoring, Murray.

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