|Image: Murray Darling Basin Authority.|
By Angela Dorizas
The Coorong District in South Australia was made famous in the 1976 Australian film Storm Boy, but the once idyllic coastal setting is on the verge of collapse.
Reduced flows from the Murray-Darling river system, combined with drought and hypersalinity, has resulted in an ecological disaster.
The South Australian Government has now released a 20-year plan to help restore the health of the Coorong and Lower Lakes, backed by a federal funding promise of $200 million.
The plan includes more that 25 separate programs, including overcoming hypersalinity and restoring marine life in the south Coorong lagoon; preventing acidification through large scale revegetation work; and consultation with local communities and Indigenous groups over future management of the region.
SA Minister for Environment and Conservation Paul Caica said the success of the plan relied on sufficient freshwater flows down the River Murray into the Lower Lakes.
“South Australia is committed to a freshwater solution for the Coorong and Lower Lakes, and the Murray Darling Basin Plan is the key mechanism by which improved flows can be delivered to the Lakes in the long-term,” Mr Caica said.
Federal Minister for Climate Change, Energy Efficiency and Water, Senator Penny Wong, said four urgent projects addressing acidification and hypersalinity would begin immediately.
“The four projects mean this plan can get off to a strong start in building a future for these internationally important wetlands,” Senator Wong said.
Projects funded under the $21 million early works package include maintaining water levels in Lake Albert to reduce acidification risk; dilution of hypersaline water in the Coorong South Lagoon; revegetation to stabilise exposed acid sulfate soils; and managing acid sulfate soil hotspots through limestone application and construction of an artificial wetland at Meningie.
Mayor of Coorong, Roger Strother, said the community was not only dealing with an ecological crisis, but the economic and social impacts of drought and hypersalinity.
The mass exodus of dairy farmers has a left a multi-million dollar hole in the local economy. Local businesses, particularly in the town of Meningie, have also suffered and real estate values have plummeted.
“As people were losing their income, losing their lifestyles, there was a lot of concern about mental health issues,” Cr Strother said.
“The confidence in the area just crashed.”
Government News profiled Coorong District Council and its drought response measures in the June-July issue.
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