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5.5.2 Lower Broken Creek
System overview
The lower Broken Creek system includes the section of Broken Creek that flows from the confluence of Boosey Creek near Katamatite to the Murray River; and Nine Mile Creek, which is an anabranch of lower Broken Creek that flows from the East Goulburn Main Channel to below Numurkah.
Lower Broken and Nine Mile creeks have been regulated for over a century. Before regulation, the creeks would have had most of their flow in winter/spring and contracted to isolated pools or dried out during summer/autumn. The adjacent floodplain would have also flooded regularly. The creeks now have numerous weirs that maintain a relatively constant flow from mid-August until mid-May to support irrigated agriculture. These modifications have changed the way native animals use the creek. Previously, native fish would have moved into the creek when it was flowing and returned to the Murray River as it dried. Both creeks now provide year-round habitat for native fish, and fish passage structures allow fish to move between weir pools. Water for the environment is used to support these permanent fish habitats, by providing flows to trigger fish movement and support fish passage, control water quality and flush azolla as necessary.
Lower Broken Creek is operated separately to upper Broken Creek and the Broken River, because regulated water is delivered to lower Broken Creek from the Goulburn and Murray systems via the irrigation channel network, unlike upper Broken Creek and Broken River which are both supplied from Lake Nillahcootie on the upper Broken River.
Water for the environment can be provided to lower
Broken Creek from the Goulburn system through the
East Goulburn Main Channel and from the Murray system through the Yarrawonga Main Channel. Water is released into lower Broken Creek from several irrigation regulators along the length of lower Broken Creek. The main priority for environmental watering in the lower Broken Creek system is to maintain minimum flows throughout the year. Particular attention is given to reaches 1 and 2 during the non-irrigation season, when flow can stop. The next priority is to deliver freshes in winter/spring to trigger fish movement and spawning, maintain water quality and manage azolla blooms in reaches 3 and 4. The measurement point for environmental flows in lower Broken Creek is at Rices Weir.
Some of the environmental flow targets for lower Broken Creek are partly or wholly met by operational water releases — IVTs (from the Goulburn to the Murray) or choke bypass flows (when bypassing the Barmah choke in the Murray)
— that are delivered to meet downstream demands. These operational deliveries mainly occur during peak irrigation demand between spring and autumn. Water for the environment may be used to supplement these operational releases and to deliver recommended flow components that are not met by the operational releases.
Environmental values
Lower Broken Creek and Nine Mile Creek support a diverse and abundant native fish community including
the threatened Murray cod, golden perch, silver perch, unspecked hardyhead and Murray-Darling rainbowfish. Sections of lower Broken and Nine Mile creeks have been reserved as state park and natural feature reserves. The associated floodplain and wetland habitats support box- dominated grassy woodland communities and numerous species of state and national conservation significance including river swamp wallaby grass and the Australasian bittern.
Environmental watering objectives in lower Broken Creek
5.5 Broken system
     Protect and increase native fish populations including the threatened Murray cod, golden perch and silver perch
   Protect platypus populations, particularly outside the irrigation season
Protect rakali (water rat) populations, particularly outside the irrigation season
    Protect turtle populations, particularly outside the irrigation season
   Avoid the excessive build-up of azolla
Maintain the cover and condition of native in- stream and littoral vegetation communities
    Maintain the diversity and abundance of waterbug populations
    Maintain oxygen levels suitable for aquatic animals
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