$60M to reduce Coorong salinity levels

A NEW $60 million project funded by the Australian and SA Governments will help reduce salinity levels in the Coorong.

The SE Flows Restoration Project will use a combination of watercourses and existing drains to redirect fresh water into the Coorong South Lagoon from the SE drainage system according to Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment Senator Simon Birmingham.

State Water Minister Ian Hunter on a recent visit to Naracoorte.

State Water Minister Ian Hunter on a recent visit to Naracoorte.

"The project will also enable additional water to be diverted into SE wetlands en route to the Coorong, addressing priority local environmental needs along the way," Mr Birmingham said. 

"The Australian Government is providing $54 million in funding as part of our $123 million contribution to improving the Coorong, Lower Lakes and Murray Mouth. 

"We are committed to working to maintain the lakes as a healthy and resilient wetland of international importance. 

"A proportion of freshwater from the SE drainage system currently diverted into the ocean, which historically flowed into the South Lagoon, will be restored to the South Lagoon," Senator Birmingham said. 

By diverting this water into the Coorong South Lagoon, salinity levels in the Coorong will be better managed and improve conditions for native aquatic plants and animal species. 

"The existing SE drainage system already delivers on average 30 GL per year to the Coorong at Salt Creek.

"The project will provide an additional 26GL per year on average, providing long-term environmental outcomes for the Coorong." 

SA Minister for Water and the River Murray Ian Hunter said the SA Government would provide an additional $6 million in funding for the SE Flows Restoration Project. 

"The Coorong suffered significant ecological degradation as a result of the recent drought in the Murray-Darling Basin," he said. 

"This project will help restore the Coorong by reducing salinity levels. 

"By reinstating the flow path, the project will also deliver additional environmental water to wetlands in the SE, and will help improve seagrass beds near Kingston that currently receive excessive freshwater from the drainage system." 

Baseline monitoring of the en-route wetlands and the Coorong has already been undertaken during the project investigation and will continue during project delivery. 

Additional funding will also be provided for comprehensive investigations which will include hydrological modelling, engineering and ecological studies. 

SE Natural Resources Management Board presiding member Frank Brennan said the project will be managed by a steering committee including representation from the SE NRM Board and the SE Water Conservation and Drainage Board. 

"It's vital that the SE community, through community board representation, is involved to ensure the best outcomes for the community and the environment," Mr Brennan said. 

"The Australian Government funding for the project includes budgets for landholder consultation, broader community and Aboriginal engagement programs, and an environmental management program to support monitoring and understanding of the SE drainage system and Coorong."

This project will also be subject to environmental approvals under national and State environment legislation. 

The SE Flows Restoration Project is part of the Coorong, Lower Lakes and Murray Mouth Recovery Project and is jointly funded under the Australian Government's Sustainable Rural Water Use and Infrastructure Program and SA's Murray Futures program.