Work continues on the Toorale Water Infrastructure Project in the state’s far west.
The nature of the project means that it has taken time to work through some of more complex and sensitive issues. While Covid 19, rain and flooding have all impacted on the project this year, steady progress is being made behind the scenes.
Designs have been finalised for modifications to the Boera and Homestead dams, addressing a range of issues raised by stakeholders while satisfying legislative requirements.
A robust environmental assessment process has concluded and has determined that the project can proceed subject to a range of conditions.
An important change that has been made since exhibition of the Review of Environmental Factors for Phase 2 is that the amendment of modifications to Booka Dam. This was done in response to unacceptable impacts and problems with designing and siting the proposed works at this location. An alternative option that uses the western bywash of Booka Dam as the primary flow path in this reach is proposed and currently under investigation.
With the environmental assessment process and structure designs completed, the project is now entering the works/construction stage. This will begin later this year initially with ordering, fabrication and delivery of materials. Preliminary works are expected to begin in early 2021.
Autumn flood event
The Warrego River flowed during March-May 2020 after significant local rain was followed by the arrival of floodwaters from Queensland. This year the Warrego flood coincided with the best flows in the Darling-Baaka River for several years.
National Parks and Wildlife Service kept the regulating pipes at Boera Dam open for the duration of the event (77 days). Despite this, the inflows were such that both the western and eastern bywashes at Boera commenced to flow. The sustained flow led to water reaching the lower end of the western floodplain where it reconnected with the Darling-Baaka River at Talowla.
The ecological response to the replenishing of flows in the rivers and floodplain was exciting and impressive. Fish sampling in the Warrego river in July/August 2020 suggested the recruitment of a number of native species including golden perch, bony herring, Hyrtl’s catfish and spangled perch. Large flocks of Pelicans were observed actively feeding on fish in several of the Warrego dams on Toorale.
The flooding replenished plant life on the park, much of which received the best watering in years. Flowering and seed-setting of some floodplain species such as Coolibah and lignum has occurred.
The floodwaters extended to the recently constructed wetland walk on the western floodplain, providing the many visitors that came to Toorale this year with an opportunity to experience the abundant birdlife and wildflowers on the park.
More information on the monitoring of environmental flows at Toorale can be found at Warrego-Darling MER newsletters