Federal Environment Parliamentary Secretary Senator Simon Birmingham and South Australian Water and River Murray Minister Ian Hunter have announced the decision to start dredging the Murray Mouth to remove sand build-up.
“It's vital that the Mouth remains open to keep the ecosystems in the Coorong healthy, as well as maintain connectivity between the River Murray, the Coorong and the Southern Ocean to discharge salt and other nutrients out to sea,” Senator Birmingham said.
“Had there been no water recovery towards the Basin Plan, the Murray Darling Basin Authority had determined that it was likely that dredging would have been required in autumn this year.
“It's a good sign, with the Basin Plan only partially implemented, the need for dredging was deferred. This indicates the additional water being delivered for the environment is helping to improve flows and demonstrates the importance of our commitment to implement the Basin Plan in full and on time.
“However, due to drier conditions across the Basin, flows throughout the system have reduced, sand has started to accumulate inside the Mouth and dredging is now required.
“The Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council agreed last month to allocate $4 million to the dredging in 2014–15 and I thank all jurisdictions for their cooperation to manage this situation,” said Senator Birmingham.
Minister Hunter said keeping the Mouth open was important for the health of the whole River Murray system.
“Maintaining an open Murray Mouth is a key objective under the Basin Plan and the present situation shows how important it is to continue to maintain good flows through the River system,” Minister Hunter said.
“Even with full water recovery, the Basin Plan recognises there will still be times when dredging is needed to maintain adequate connectivity with the sea.
“Dredging has shown to be the most effective method for keeping the Mouth open under periods of lower flow over the barrages, in terms of cost and environmental criteria, compared with a range of structural and other methods.”