A much-needed culvert upgrade is underway at Lilliesmere Lagoon, which could increase fish stocks by supporting them to breed, and also help deliver irrigation water to farmers more efficiently.

NQ Dry Tropics is working with Lower Burdekin Water to install fishways and automated flow control gates at the lagoon, as part of a project funded under the Australian Government’s Reef ProgrammeLower Burdekin Water has also committed funding to the upgrade.

NQ Dry Tropics Project Officer, Scott Fry, said that many species of fish including Barramundi need to migrate between salt and freshwater to complete their life cycles.

“Freshwater lagoons are nurseries for fish to grow during their juvenile stages before returning to the sea to breed. Most Australian fish migrate from the sea into the freshwater creeks when they are juveniles. They aren’t strong swimmers at this stage, and fast-flowing water prevents them migrating upstream,” he said.

“Man-made structures such as culverts, weirs and dams create additional barriers because the fish can’t swim through them.

“We are installing fishways that replicate the natural path that fish would take as they move between a series of pools, allowing them to rest as they go. They will provide fish with better connectivity, leading to increased stocks in the lagoon,” he said.

David Sartori, Executive Officer, Lower Burdekin Water, said that the automated flow gates being installed would also benefit its operations as well as farmers:

“The primary function of the gates will be to help Lower Burdekin Water deliver water more efficiently to our customers and to address existing operational hazards. The gates will also allow improved control of water flows downstream and reduce excess  water flowing out of the Authority Area and into the mangrove environment,” he said.

Scott added: “This project is one of many steps that Lower Burdekin Water and Burdekin Shire Council are planning to improve the health of Kalamia Creek, as part of NQ Dry Tropics’ Restoring Burdekin Coastal Ecosystems for the Great Barrier Reef and Ramsar Project.

“These measures will include long-term weed control to mitigate floods, as well as improve delivery of irrigation water, local water quality, and overall environmental health.

If you would like more information about fishways or the Restoring Burdekin Coastal Ecosystems for the Great Barrier Reef and Ramsar project, please contact Scott Fry at NQ Dry Tropics: scott.fry@nqdrytropics.com.au.