In Integrated Catchment Management you get an insight to a whole stack of processes and activities you might not normally encounter. The issue of biopass is one such issue. The Burnett Mary Biopass Development Strategy considers all of the impediments to fish and other aquatic creatures traveling up and down the river system.Many man-made impediments such as bridges, culverts, and of course impoundments restrict the passage of fish. In the Burnett we are luck to have a dedicated band working on the issue as you will see in this video. Major project partners on the activity shown in this video are DPI&F, BMRG, Oceanwatch, Bundaberg Regional Council

To read a more detailed overview by Rick Fennesy click on the read more button

The Biopass Strategy aims to prioritise actions which improve the passage of fish and other aquatic organisms by reducing existing barriers to the migration of native fish and other aquatic organisms. Blockage to fish passage has been identified as one of the major threatening processes affecting aquatic biodiversity and instream habitats. This project will conduct desk top and field analysis to develop plans which mitigate the impacts of such barriers which include-

  • aquatic weed “chokes”
  • minor engineering structures crossing streams (small bridges, culverts, fjords, and other crossings).
  • weirs

The initial six months (Stage 1) of the project has been completed and involved achieving two desired outcomes-

  1. A long-term strategy which guides the restoration of passage for fish, turtle, and other aquatic organisms across the Burnett Mary Region.
  2. Identification of priority blockages to passage and recommendations based on principles of environmental triage and cost benefit analysis for their remediation.

The second stage of the project is underway and is aimed at implementing the plan through the design and construction/removal of remedial measures in priority locations to enhance passage of biota.

The key objectives of Stage 1 which have been achieved are-

  • to develop and get shared agreement of specific vision aims, and prioritisation principles for the strategy within key stakeholder organisations…
  • To develop a “preliminary ‘model’ of fish and other migratory aquatic organisms in the study area…..
  • To identify priority subcatchments through a process of region-wide aquatic biodiversity assessment which identifies passage requirements across the region, using the full range of data sources within and outside government.
  • To conduct targeted consultation with community and key to validate and enhance data capture, and visions, aims, and prioritisation principles…..
  • To build the capacity and understanding of key participants and potential strategy implementers in government, Councils and NRM groups…..

Project Partners and Community Involvement

The Burnett Mary Regional Group for Natural Resource Management is the major investor and has allocated significant Natural Heritage Trust funding toward its implementation. The Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries and our partners in community and fishing groups are contributing matching in-kind contributions. The partner organisations consist of WideBay Burnett Conservation Council, Mary River Catchment Coordinating Committee, Noosa & District Community Hatchery Association, and the Fraser Coast Branch of the Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland.

The development of demonstration sites in Stage 2 has also enlisted the involvement of OceanWatch, Burnett Shire Council, Bundaberg City Council, and Noosa Shire Council toward providing both financial and in-kind support. Ross Kapitzke (James Cook University Engineering) has been contracted to provide designs and a report towards developing a rock-ramp fishway and culvert modifications at the Heale’s Road crossing on Splitter’s Creek (South Kolan, near Bundaberg).

During Stage 1 of the project, it was important to establish both a regional steering committee and technical panel to develop and implement the strategy. Our project partners provided the basis of the steering committee with additional members representing local and relevant state government departments, recreational fisheries, traditional owners, landholders, and water infrastructure bodies. The DPIF project team provided the basis for the technical panel with additional experts in fish biology, turtle biology, aquatic ecology, hydrology, environmental engineering, and fishways assisting from state government departments, universities, and NSW fisheries.

Further feedback into the strategy development and relevant decisions derived by the committee and panel was provided through a series of targeted community information and consultation events held across the region, and this was consequently used to review and adjust the emphasis of the values and associated criteria that had been identified as applicable to improving biopassage.

Process of Prioritisation.

Catchment approaches toward mitigating, remediating, and removing barriers to passage are already being implemented elsewhere in Australia e.g. New South Wales & Northern Queensland. These approaches typically utilise prioritisation processes based on assessment of barriers across a whole catchment or region. This strategy has developed a two stage prioritisation process where initially subcatchments are prioritised using ecological risk assessment methodology and then barriers within them are ranked based upon values that the regional community has identified as being important to improving passage.

Two levels of prioritisation were identified as being essential components of the strategy-

  • Regional Level Prioritisation
    • A prioritisation of all the sucatchments across the Burnett Mary Region
  • Subcatchment Level Prioritisation
    • A prioritisation of barriers within a subcatchment. (Due to the size of the region, this would be only undertaken for a few selected subcatchments which had ranked highly in the regional Level prioritisation.)

A Local Scale Level Prioritisation was also identified for the project associated with developing this strategy- it consists of a further prioritisation of those barriers ranking highly in the Subcatchment Level Prioritisation with an objective toward selecting suitable demonstration sites.

The regional level prioritisation used desk-top analysis and drew from a range of data sources including AquaBamm, State of the Rivers reports, Mary River Rehabilitation Plan, Water Resource Plans, Burnett Basin ROP, Burnett River Catchment Study, fish and turtle survey data, DNRW stream gauge data, Mary Basin Land & Water Resources Assessment, and expert opinion.

The steering committee consequently selected several subcatchments for an initial subcatchment level prioritisation. The Middle Mary Subcatchment was subcontracted out to the Mary River Catchment Coordinating Committee for analysis, whilst the Project Officer undertook analysis of barriers across the Isis River, Burnett Estuary, and Baffle Creek Subcatchments. The field analysis component included hydrological, geomorphological, ecological, and structural data collection.

In addition to the collected data being used for the Subcatchment Level Prioritisation, it was also applied toward a cost benefit analysis developed by Bill Johnson (Principal Agricultural Economist) which assesses such costs as capital investment, maintenance, and loss of water resources against identified benefits such as increases in species, water quality, and recreational fishing opportunities.

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