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5.7.3 Birchs Creek
System overview
Birchs Creek is a tributary of the Loddon
River located in the southern-most 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 part of the broader Bullarook system which contains two small storages — Newlyn Reservoir and Hepburn Lagoon — which provide water for irrigation and urban supply. The storages fill and spill during winter or spring in years with average or above-average rainfall.
Birchs Creek receives tributary inflows from Rocky Lead, Langdons, Lawrence and Tourello creeks. Groundwater provides reliable baseflows to the downstream reaches of Birchs Creek in most years.
The VEWH is allocated 100 ML in Newlyn Reservoir on 1 December each year, provided that seasonal determinations in the Bullarook system are at least
20 percent. Any unused allocation from 1 December can be carried over until 30 November of the following water year, but if Newlyn Reservoir spills from 1 July to 30 November, the volume held in carryover is lost.
Any water remaining on 30 November is forfeited.
When seasonal determinations are below 20 percent,
the VEWH does not receive an allocation, and the system’s resources are shared equitably to protect critical human and environmental needs.
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 indicates that platypus are present throughout the entire creek.
The removal of willows along the creek in 2018 has led to observed improvements in in-stream vegetation and the presence of small-bodied fish.
Environmental watering objectives in Birchs Creek
5.7 Loddon system
    Increase the population and diversity of small to medium-bodied native fish including river blackfish, mountain galaxias, flat-headed gudgeon and Australian smelt
Re-establish populations of small to medium- bodied native fish in reaches 1 and 2 of Birchs Creek
    Maintain the breeding population of platypus and increase the number of individuals to improve the population’s resilience to future droughts and floods
Provide opportunities for platypus dispersal to Creswick and Tullaroop creeks
    Maintain and improve the diversity and abundance of in-stream aquatic plants
Maintain a diverse variety of fringing and streamside native vegetation communities
    Increase the population of waterbugs and the diversity of functional groups to drive productive and dynamic food webs
    Maintain water quality to support aquatic life and ecological processes
Traditional Owner cultural values and uses
In planning for environmental flows in Birchs Creek, Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation and North Central CMA have identified the creek as a potential site for future projects.
The Dja Dja Wurrung Country Plan describes their aspirations around the management of rivers and waterways and articulates Dja Dja Wurrung peoples’ support for the reinstatement of environmental flows as an overall objective for the management of water on Country. The North Central CMA and Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation continue to work towards increased engagement on planning and delivery of environmental watering activities, including identifying opportunities for Dja Dja Wurrung involvement.
Social, recreational and economic values and uses
In planning the potential watering actions in Table 5.7.5, North Central CMA considered how environmental flows could support values and uses including:
• water-based recreation (such as canoeing and fishing)
• riverside recreation and amenity (such as improving amenity at key community spaces like Anderson’s Mill)
• community events and tourism (such as education activities like school groups and River Detectives)
• socio-economic benefits (such as diverters for irrigation, domestic and stock uses).
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