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The Latrobe system includes the Latrobe River and lower Latrobe wetlands: Sale Common, Dowd Morass and Heart Morass. 

The Latrobe River, its tributaries and the Latrobe wetlands continue to be important places for Traditional Owners and their Nations. The Registered Aboriginal Party (RAP) in the region is the Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation.

Storage manager
Environmental water holder

Environmental watering objectives in the Latrobe River

Fish icon
Improve in-stream habitat for native fish including black bream and estuary perch
Landscape icon
Form in-stream bars to help stabilise the structure and condition of the river channel: this will help to reduce the load of sediment and nutrients flowing into the Gippsland Lakes
Plant icon
Establish native plants on bars and lower parts of the banks to stabilise the river channel

System map

Latrobe River and Wetland System
Grey river reaches have been included for context. The numbered reaches indicate where relevant environmental flow studies have been undertaken. Coloured reaches can receive environmental water.

Environmental values

The upper Latrobe River flows through state forest and remains relatively intact and ecologically healthy. It contains some continuous stands of river red gums and intact riparian vegetation. This section of the Latrobe also supports native animal species including barred galaxias, river blackfish, Gippsland spiny crayfish and nankeen night herons.

The lower Latrobe River flows through the Latrobe Valley and is highly degraded due to historic river management practices. Most snags have been removed from the river and many sections have been artificially straightened. These practices have caused significant erosion and
widened the channel, which has in turn reduced the quality and quantity of habitat for aquatic plants and animals.

Endangered and vulnerable vegetation communities are found in all but the most-modified sections of the Latrobe River. The banks along the lower reaches support stands of swamp scrub, characterised by swamp paperbark and tea tree. Mature river red gums grow adjacent to the
lower Latrobe wetlands and provide nesting habitat for sea eagles and other birds of prey that hunt in the wetlands. The Latrobe River supports several native estuarine and freshwater fish species including black bream, Australian bass, Australian grayling and short- and long-finned eel.

The Latrobe River and its tributaries provide an essential source of freshwater to the Gippsland Lakes system, of which the lower Latrobe wetlands are an important component.

Social, cultural and economic values

The Latrobe Valley remains central to Victoria's energy industry, and water extracted from the Latrobe River is used in the electricity generation process. The Latrobe River also provides water for irrigation, stock and domestic licences, commercial and industrial licences and urban water supplies. These industries, along with the businesses that exist to service them, provide employment opportunities in the region.

Water storages throughout the catchment are popular recreation areas. Lake Narracan hosts annual waterskiing events and Blue Rock Reservoir is becoming increasingly popular for recreational fishing. The lower Latrobe River is commercially fished for eel and carp. It also contains black bream and estuary perch, which are favoured by recreational fishers. Many of the region's wetlands attract walkers, birdwatchers and hunters.

Conditions 2018

Climatic conditions in West Gippsland were warmer and drier than average during the 2017–18 water year. The only significant natural flow events were a minor flood in the Latrobe River that lasted less than six days in mid- September and an event downstream of the Thomson confluence in early December. More environmental flows were delivered to the Latrobe River in 2017–18 than in previous years. Freshes were delivered in November 2017 and March and April 2018.

The environmental flow provided in November was a first for the Latrobe River at that time of year. Several natural freshes had already occurred due to heavy rainfall and minor spills from Blue Rock Reservoir, and an extra release was necessary to bolster vegetation growth on the banks of the lower Latrobe during the peak growing season in spring. The fresh was also coordinated with releases made in the Thomson and Macalister rivers to deliver a large pulse through the system to support native fish migration.

Environmental flows in March 2018 complemented three smaller, unregulated freshes that occurred in January. The release in April 2018 was combined with releases made to the Thomson and Macalister rivers to maintain bank vegetation and improve water quality in the lower Latrobe River estuary.

Low-flow recommendations were achieved from passing flows and unregulated flows during July to December 2017, but summer/autumn low flows were below the minimumflow recommendation. Low flows were not augmented with environmental flow releases because the two freshes were considered sufficient to provide in-stream habit throughout summer and autumn.

Scope of environmental watering

Table 1 Potential environmental watering actions and objectives for the Latrobe River

Potential environmental watering

Environmental objectives

Spring/summer freshes (1,300 ML/day for 2–4 days during September to February)

  • Encourage vegetation zonation along lower banks and recruitment/maintenance of in-stream vegetation

Autumn/winter freshes (1,300 ML/day for 2–4 days during March to August)

Winter/spring low flows (690–1,500 ML/day\ from June–November)

  • Encourage the formation of in-stream bars (deposit sediment and gravel on slightly elevated features in the river channel)

Summer/autumn low flows (up to 690 ML/ day from December to May)

  • Provide in-stream habitat for aquatic biota, (especially waterbugs, fish and vegetation)

Risk management

In preparing its seasonal watering proposal, West Gippsland CMA considered and assessed the risks of environmental watering and identified mitigation strategies. Program partners continually reassess risks and mitigation actions throughout the water year.

Engagement

Table 2 shows the partners with which West Gippsland CMA engaged when preparing the Latrobe system seasonal watering proposal.

Seasonal watering proposals are informed by longer-term regional catchment strategies, regional waterway strategies, environmental flow studies, water management plans and other studies. These incorporate a range of environmental, cultural, social and economic perspectives and longerterm integrated catchment and waterway management objectives. For further details, refer to the West Gippsland Regional Catchment Strategy and West Gippsland Waterway Strategy.

Table 2 Partners and stakeholders engaged indeveloping the Latrobe system seasonal watering proposal

Partner and stakeholder engagement
  • Field and Game Australia
  • Latrobe Valley Field Naturalists Club
  • Local irrigators and famers
  • Parks Victoria
  • Southern Rural Water
  • Victorian Environmental Water Holder
  • Wetlands Environmental Taskforce, a registered environmental organisation that purchases and restores wetlands in Victoria