4 October 2022

Council poised to open Durras Lake after unauthorised weekend big dig fails

| Katrina Condie
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People digging in sand

A group of people attempted to dig a channel to open Durras Lake over the weekend. Photo: Friends of Durras.

A group of people who took matters into their own hands could face prosecution after they attempted to dig a channel opening at Durras Lake north of Batemans Bay over the weekend.

Eurobodalla Shire Council and NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) staff are investigating the actions of a group of people who were photographed digging out a channel to the sea with shovels.

A council spokesperson said staff had been on site to verify the impacts of the unauthorised attempt.

Rising water levels in the lake are expected to trigger a manual opening by the council this week ahead of predicted high rainfall.

The trigger level for opening Durras Lake is 1.8 metres or 1.7 m sustained for a three-month period.

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The council spokesperson said contractors would try to open the lake when it hit the trigger or as close to it as safely possible without unnecessary risk to staff and plant. It will likely be Wednesday or Thursday.

“Council is monitoring the lake level and has machinery ready to go to open the lake once the trigger is reached, anticipated this week,” the spokesperson said.

Friends of Durras convenor John Perkins said members of the community group welcomed the council’s intervention as part of its “well thought-out” and “comprehensive” lake entrance management plan.

“The opening of coastal lakes is a job for professionals rather than some locals and visitors who take it upon themselves attempting to open Durras Lake in a most amateur, haphazard way such as what occurred during the October long weekend,” he said.

“Actions by individuals attempting to open Durras Lake sets a bad precedent, undermining the work that has gone into developing this Durras Lake entrance management plan.”

According to the council spokesperson, the lake is opened at the trigger level to maintain access and prevent environmental impacts relating to inundation of private property and assets within the catchment, including septic systems.

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“Inundation of private property does not typically become a concern at water levels of 1.8; however, there are septic trenches which can become inundated if the water level rises above 1.8, as well as crossings and crown road,” the spokesperson added.

According to NSW Department of Primary Industries Fisheries, the illegal opening of Intermittently Closed and Open Lakes and Lagoons (ICOLLS) on the NSW South Coast has the potential to lead to large-scale fish kills caused by sudden drops in water levels and dissolved oxygen levels as well as increased exposure and death of aquatic vegetation, which can cause odours.

Fisheries Officers are continuing to patrol lakes and lagoons as part of their surveillance activities to detect and deter any works to illegally open them.

Illegal opening of an ICOLL by community groups or individuals is an offence under section 201 of the Fisheries Management Act (dredging without a permit). The maximum penalty for an individual is $110,000 and an on-the-spot fine of $1,000 can apply.

DPI has regulatory oversight to detect and deter illegal activities or works impacting aquatic habitats including unauthorised ICOLL openings by dredging, that can cause harm to the marine environment and its surroundings.

If you see an attempted illegal opening of an ICOLL, please contact the Fishers Watch hotline on 1800 043 536 or online.

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