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Tuppal Creek Restoration Project

What is the Tuppal Creek Restoration Project?

The Tuppal Creek Restoration Project was established to improve the ecological state of the Tuppal Creek by increasing the flow regime from the Murray Irrigation network.

The project was initiated by landholders, in conjunction with NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE), who saw the health of the creek decline over a period of time due to low flows.

In 2012, a watering trial with up to 6,000 ML was conducted by NSW DPIE and the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder (CEWH). This trial demonstrated an increase in biodiversity and water quality, growth of new water plant vegetation, and a positive response from the drought-affected native trees that neighboured the creek.

Today, the project is coordinated by Tuppal Creek landholders, DPIE, and Murray Irrigation who work collaboratively to implement a long-term strategy and continue the restoration and rehabilitation of the creek.

Why is this project important?

Historically, the 60-kilometre ephemeral creek was a natural flood runner from the Murray River to the Edward River.

In the 1950s, after World War II, the entrance of Tuppal Creek was cut off from the Murray River by a constructed levee bank. This levee blocked the mouth of the creek, and today it is used as a road from Tocumwal to Mathoura, named the Lower River Road.

What was once a popular recreational fishing spot for local fishers, became a stagnant creek, with a minimal flow, that worsened over time.  Water salinity levels grew, fish died due to lack of oxygenated water, and vegetation and tree life deteriorated.

Importantly, the creek provides habitat to nine threatened species including the fishing bat, superb parrot, bush stone curlew, diamond firetail finch, and other native plants and animals.

Positive outcomes

Since its inception, the project has achieved multiple outcomes, including:

  • Water for environment flows – providing numerous ecological benefits including improved water quality, reduction of salinity levels, improved riparian vegetation condition and habitat quality;
  • Upgrades to the MIL escapes – to increase flow capacity and an automated system, with local contractors completing the work
  • Positive working relationships between the Tuppal Creek community, regional communities, government agencies, and environmental water delivery partners.

What role does Murray Irrigation play in this?

Murray Irrigation uses its channel network to deliver water for the environment through their escapes that run into Tuppal Creek.

In 2019, with funding from the NSW Government, Murray Irrigation engaged in stage one of the project. Local contractors were awarded the works to upgrade two escape structures and install a new escape into the Tuppal Creek. The goal was to achieve a target rate into the creek from 40 ML a day to up to 200 ML/ day.

This upgrade also saw the installation of Rubicon FlumeGates, which are remote-controlled from the Murray Irrigation office, which enables accurate and targeted flows when needed.

The three escapes were;

  • Tocumwal Main Escape: (existing escape upgraded to deliver 60 ML/day);
  • Mulwala 11 Escape: (existing escape involved extensive works to 1.3km of the escape channel, increased capacity from 20 ML to 60 ML/day);
  • Tocumwal 6 Escape: (new escape designed to deliver up to 100 ML/day, discharges into the Lalalty Drain and subsequently into the Tuppal Creek System).

The project aimed to increase the hydrological and ecological function of the creek and improve the frequency, magnitude, duration and timing of flows in the Tuppal Creek to emulate a more natural flow regime.

It also increases carbon transfer within the creeks system, which boosts the aquatic food web that feeds native fish.

In February 2020, a trial flow was conducted over a 15-day period, with a total volume of 2,238 ML released into Tuppal Creek.

The goal was to deliver much needed water to the creek system and identify any problems in the Tuppal Creek, prior to the rollout of stage two works.

Stage two involves further plans to upgrade existing low-level crossings to reach several outcomes for the health of the creek, including carbon exchange and fish passage connectivity. These upgrades will begin in 2020.

What’s next?

Tuppal Creek community, Murray Irrigation, and NSW DPIE continue to work together to find ways to rehabilitate and restore Tuppal Creek back to a more natural condition.

Murray Irrigation is working on stage two plans, in-line with the objectives above, to upgrade existing low-level crossings to help restore a free-flowing stream, remove barriers to native fish passage, and maintain access for farming operations and emergency services.

This project has been heavily supported by local landholders.