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Landowners asked to remove Sleeman River salinity barrier

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Patricia Gill, Denmark Bulletin

Landowners whose property joins the mouth of the Sleeman River have been asked to dismantle the remnants of a disintegrating weir which has been in place for more than 30 years.

The weir was built to block salt water from entering the river so landowners could exercise their riparian rights.

Sleeman River weir

A kayaker noticed the remnants of the weir – comprising crumbling bagged sand mud or cement – and reported the structure to the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation about a year ago.

In recent weeks, DWER was due to conduct a site visit to confirm the removal of the temporary structure was completed appropriately. There was no evidence of a breach of any legislation and the adjacent landowners were cooperative and responding appropriately.

In April last year the kayaker came across the structure the width of the Sleeman River about 500m from where the river enters Wilson Inlet. The kayaker described it as poorly made and cobbled together with concrete, bricks and black plastic and separating the river height by about 30cm either side of the weir.

This appeared to affect the water quality and fish life upstream.

The water above the structure was brackish and contained plentiful black bream whereas in May, after rains, the upstream water was fresh and there were no fish evident.

There was also a big pump downstream about 500m from the South Coast Highway bridge.

The kayaker was concerned about the structure changing the ecosystem of the Sleeman River and that the weir might disintegrate and contaminate the water.

The kayaker reported the matter to DWER in June, 2023 but a year later there had been no action.

But DWER responded saying in September 2023 the application of the Rights in Water and Irrigation Act 1914 in these kind of circumstances was complex and could take time and that they would respond in due course.

In April this year, the kayaker asked again about the situation concerned that rain would wash rubbish into the inlet from the disintegrating structure.

Afterwards DWER met with adjacent landowners who were asked to remove the remaining sandbags from the riverbank.

Alternative options of freshwater requirement would be assessed.

DWER told the Denmark Bulletin that it had been notified about the temporary structure in early 2022 after a concerned caller reported it.

A spokesperson said that the site was checked and it was found that water was freely moving downstream so no further actions were taken.

After a formal written complaint in mid 2023, DWER reassessed the situation.

“We undertook site visits and discussed the structure with adjacent landholders, and then with other responsible agencies,” the spokesperson said.

“The department noted that multiple plastic sandbags were piled on top of an old shallow concrete weir.

“We were informed that the underlying concrete weir was in place for more than 30 years.

“The temporary structure was installed by the adjacent landholders each season to minimise saltwater ingress from the estuary further upstream, so that they could exercise their riparian rights for stock watering.

“We have negotiated with the adjacent landowners to remove the structure and provided advice on alternative options to meet their water needs.

“The adjacent landowners have cooperated with us, and the structure was removed.”

Denmark Bulletin 11 July 2024

This article appeared in the Denmark Bulletin, 11 July 2024.


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