In early July, the Curdies River estuary closed, much like many of the estuaries in southwest Victoria. In response to rising water levels in the river, Parks Victoria and the Corangamite CMA coordinated an artificial opening to protect local property assets in and around the township of Peterborough.
This a common practice and normally occurs without issue. Water quality monitoring was conducted on Tuesday July 4 and the Estuary Entrance Management Support System was used to assess the risks of opening or not opening the estuary.
On Wednesday (5th of July)) a manual opening was attempted but was unsuccessful due to unfavourable ocean conditions pushing sand back up into the entrance of the estuary. With the estuary continuing to fill and the risk of flooding growing, a shallow estuary opening was conducted on Tuesday 11 July, when conditions became more favourable.
Due to the head of water in the estuary, the opening resulted in the channel deepening and water levels in the estuary dropping quickly in the space of a few hours. This resulted in a few thousand Bream and mullet becoming stranded in a wetland near the Boggy Creek Pub, as the drop in river depth separated the wetland from the main channel.
Thanks to the quick response from local volunteers and the Victorian Fisheries Authority, most of the stranded fish were able to be relocated back into the main river channel.
Approximately 4,000-5,000 fish were saved. Unfortunately, due to the over whelming number of fish stranded, approximately 200-300 couldn’t be saved.
The Victorian Fisheries Authority investigated other potential sites but did not find any evidence of trapped fish.
Corangamite CMA, Parks Victoria, and the Victorian Fisheries Authority are looking into the event to determine if any action can be undertaken to minimise the risk of re-occurrence, as well as improve agency response.