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Birchs Creek is a tributary of the Loddon River located in the southernmost part of the catchment. The creek rises in the ranges north-east of Ballarat and flows north-west through Newlyn and Smeaton before joining Tullaroop Creek near Clunes. The lower parts of the catchment are extensively cleared where the creek meanders through an incised basaltic valley. The creek contains a regionally significant platypus community and a vulnerable river blackfish population.

Birchs Creek is an important place for Traditional Owners and their Nations. The Registered Aboriginal Party (RAP) in the region is the Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation. Representatives from the RAP were engaged during the preparation of the Birchs Creek seasonal watering proposal.

Environmental watering objectives in Birchs Creek

Increase the abundance of river blackfish, mountain galaxias and other native fish and provide opportunities for movement between pool habitats
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Maintain breeding populations of platypus and provide opportunities for surplus juveniles to disperse to Creswick Creek and Tullaroop Creek
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Enhance in-stream, fringing and riparian native plant communities

Environmental values

Birchs Creek supports threatened aquatic plants and its deep pools provide habitat for aquatic animals during dry periods. The creek contains native fish including regionally significant populations of river blackfish and mountain galaxias as well as flat-headed gudgeon and Australian smelt. Recent monitoring has shown that platypus are present throughout the entire creek.

The recent removal of willows along the creek is expected to lead to improvements in water quality, habitat and riparian vegetation and in-stream vegetation. This in turn will have a positive effect on macroinvertebrate and smallbodied fish populations.

Social and economic values

Birchs Creek is highly valued by nearby communities for its aesthetic appeal and the value of having water in the landscape. The creek is used for recreational fishing and passive activities (such as walking and picnicking). Water from Birchs Creek (via Newlyn Reservoir) supplies irrigated agriculture, particularly potatoes.

Conditions 2018

The Birchs Creek catchment had near-average rainfall through late winter and early spring 2017, which caused Newlyn Reservoir to fill and spill in September and October 2017. The spills delivered a peak flow of 200 ML per day at the Smeaton gauge. Summer and autumn were warmer and drier than average, and flows in Birchs Creek throughout these seasons were low.

Reservoir spills, tributary inputs and groundwater discharge contributed to meeting environmental flow objectives in Birchs Creek throughout the year, and no environmental flows were delivered in 2017–18.

Scope of environmental watering

Table 1 Potential environmental watering actions and objectives for Birchs Creek

Potential environmental watering

Environmental objectives

Winter/spring fresh (1 fresh of 30 ML/ day for 3 days in September–November

  •  Maintain and improve streamside vegetation 
  • Scour organic matter that has accumulated in the channel
  •  Provide habitat and refuge for small fish 
  • Maintain connectivity between pools for fish and platypus movement
Summer/autumn freshes (up to 3 freshes of 10 ML/day for 3 days in December– May)
  • Maintain water quality to minimise risks to aquatic animals associated with low dissolved oxygen and high water temperature 
  • Maintain connectivity between refuge pools for fish movement 
  • Maintain and improve instream aquatic vegetation
  • Maintain macroinvertebrate population

Risk management

In preparing its seasonal watering proposal, North Central Catchment Management Authority considered and assessed risks and identified mitigating strategies relating to the implementation of environmental watering. Risks and mitigating actions are continually reassessed by program partners throughout the water year.

Engagement

Table 2 shows the partners and stakeholder organisations with which North Central CMA engaged when preparing their seasonal watering proposals.

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 North Central Regional Catchment Strategy and North Central Waterway Strategy.

Table 2 Partners and stakeholders engaged in developing the Loddon system seasonal watering proposal

Partner and stakeholder engagement
  • Barapa Barapa Nations Traditional Owners 
  • Birchs Creek Environmental Water Advisory Group, Loddon Murray Wetlands Environmental Water Advisory Group and Loddon River Environmental Water Advisory Group (comprising community members and representatives of Field & Game Australia, Birdlife Australia, Game Management Authority, NCCMA's Community Consultative Committee, Gannawarra Shire Council, Swan Hill Rural City Council, Loddon Shire Council, Campaspe Shire Council, Parks Victoria, Goulburn-Murray Water, Central Highlands Water, the Victorian Environmental Water Holder) 
  • Commonwealth Environmental Water Office and the Victorian Environmental Water Holder 
  • Commonwealth Environmental Water Office 
  • Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation 
  • Field & Game Australia 
  • Game Management Authority 
  • Goulburn-Murray Water 
  • Loddon Shire Council, Campaspe Shire Council 
  • Parks Victoria 
  • Victorian Environmental Water Holder 
  • VRFish 
  • Wamba Wemba Traditional Owners 
  • Yorta Yorta Nation Aboriginal Corporation