2014 – Keepit Fishway Offsets: Mollee Weir Fish Lock and Downstream Multi-Function Migration Gate – Integrating Form and Function

Steven Slarke, Dr Martin Mallen-Cooper and Marcos Guirguis

Keepit Fishway Offsets
Fish passage structures are being provided by State Water Corporation as part of a strategic program to address fish passage barriers that triggered S218 of the Fisheries Management Act 1994 at Mollee Weir, Gunidgera Weir and Weeta Weir in the Namoi River. These sites are an offset for dam safety upgrade works on Keepit and Split Rock dams in the headwaters of the Namoi River. Rather than applying high-level fish lifts at the dams, the three lowland sites represent the top three ecological priorities in the Namoi River for fish passage facilities – a case of less cost for greater ecological outcomes. The objective of the fish passage facilities at these sites is to restore upstream and downstream fish passage for about fifteen native fish species. The key biological objectives are to pass adult and juvenile fish upstream and adult fish and larvae (which drift with the current) downstream.

Mollee Weir
Mollee Weir was constructed in 1973 on the Namoi River downstream of Keepit Dam, near Narrabri in northern NSW. The nine-metre high weir is used for irrigation and comprises a reinforced concrete structure featuring three bays with undershot gates and two piers. The upstream and downstream water levels are highly variable, with a maximum differential head of about six metres. Fish are unable to pass the weir during regulated and unregulated flows; even when the undershot gates are fully raised in high flows, due to high velocities in the opened weir. The weir’s large undershot gates are also a barrier to safe downstream fish passage during regulated flows. High water pressures and velocities beneath the partially raised gates create a high mortality rate for fish and larvae moving downstream.

Fish Passage and Regulator Structure
Designed for State Water NSW by URS Australia Pty Ltd in cooperation with Dr Martin Mallen-Cooper of Fishway Consulting services, Mollee Weir features a new fish lock for upstream-migrating fish and a dedicated overshot gate with dissipating pools for downstream-migrating fish, and was constructed during 2013 to 2014.
It is the tallest fish lock in Australia that is filled from the top.
The innovative design features two separate downstream fish holding bays and two fish lock entrance gates, to provide optimal entrance conditions at varying river flows and water levels.
To provide safe downstream fish passage at low to moderate river flows, a 4 m wide ‘downstream multi-function migration gate’ has been integrated beside the fish lock structure. This overshot gate also provides an attraction flow to the fish lock entrances, and tracks the upstream water level at high river flows to provide a high discharge pool and weir fishway as a bypass around the weir structure.
The Mollee Weir fish lock provides upstream fish passage for the full range of upstream and downstream water levels.

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