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The Boort wetlands are on the floodplain west of the Loddon River, downstream of Loddon Weir. They consist of temporary and permanent freshwater lakes and swamps: Lake Boort, Lake Leaghur, Lake Yando, Little Lake Meran and Lake Meran. Together, the Boort wetlands cover over 800 ha. There are several other wetlands in the district, but they are currently not managed with water for the environmental.

The Boort wetlands are 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 and from Barapa Barapa and Wamba Wemba Traditional Owners were engaged during the preparation of the Boort wetlands seasonal watering proposal.

Environmental watering objectives in the Boort wetlands

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Rehabilitate habitat and provide breeding opportunities to maintain local and regional populations of birds, fish, frogs and turtles
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Maintain or increase the growth of river red gums and aquatic and amphibious vegetation

Environmental values

The Boort wetlands provide habitat for a range of plant and animal species. At Lake Yando, 12 rare plant species have been recorded including the jerry-jerry and water nymph. Bird species recorded at Lake Boort, Lake Leaghur and Lake Meran include the white-bellied sea eagle, Latham's snipe and eastern great egret. Little Lake Meran is a swampy woodland with black box trees on the highest wet margins and river red gums fringing the waterline.

Social and recreational values

The Boort wetlands provide many recreation opportunities. Lake Meran and Lake Boort are state game reserves and hunting is also allowed at Lake Yando and Lake Leaghur. The large expanse of open water at Lake Meran attracts visitors during holiday seasons and on weekends for boating, fishing and waterskiing. Lakes Yando, Boort and Leaghur contain excellent environmental values and birdwatchers and field naturalists regularly visit the lakes whether they are wet or dry.

Conditions 2018

Rainfall throughout the Loddon catchment and the Boort wetlands varied throughout 2017–18. Winter 2017 had near-average rainfall; September and October 2017 were dry; December 2017 and early January 2018 had some high rainfall; and the rest of summer and autumn were very dry. The high rainfall at the end of spring and early summer did not deliver any inflows to the Boort wetlands, and the very hot and dry conditions later in the year accelerated drying in wetlands that held water from previous years.

Lakes Boort, Leaghur and Yando and Meran were all naturally flooded in spring 2016 and water levels are now receding, allowing wetland plants an opportunity to establish. Little Lake Meran was the only lake in the Boort wetlands system to which water for the environment was delivered in 2017–18. Little Lake Meran is normally disconnected from the Loddon floodplain, except for during exceptionally high floods (such as in 2011). After flooding in 2011, river red gums germinated around the edges of the lake. Water for the environment was delivered to Little Lake Meran in May 2018 and follow-up watering is planned for winter/spring 2018, to maintain the growth of the saplings.

Scope of environmental watering

Table 1 Potential environmental watering actions and objectives for the Boort wetlands

Potential environmental watering

Environmental objectives

Wetland watering

Little Lake Meran (partial fill in spring)

  • Increase the growth and recruitment of river red gums 
  • Provide feeding and breeding opportunities for waterbirds 
  • Provide open-water and mudflat habitats to support aquatic food webs and provide habitat for waterbirds 
  • Maintain the diversity of aquatic plant communities

Wetland drying

Lake Boort, Lake Leaghur, Lake Meran and Lake Yando (promote natural drawdown and drying)

  • These wetlands will be in a drying phase in 2018–19 
  • The drying will help maintain a high diversity of habitats across the landscape that can support a wide range of wetland-dependent birds and animals 
  • Gradual drawdown at each wetland will help rehabilitate vegetation zones in and around the wetland

Risk management

In preparing its seasonal watering proposal, North Central 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 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