Poll: 96 per cent support Sainty’s plan to fix Lake Wyangan

Some 96 per cent of respondents to a Fairfax Media poll say Murrumbidgee Irrigation and Griffith City Council should adopt a plan by Wetlands expert Geoff Sainty to fix Lake Wyangan. 

The Order of Australia medal winner says Shepparton’s conquering of its blue-green algae problems proves Griffith can do the same for its lake.

Victoria Park Lake, in Shepparton, was once plagued by a prolonged outbreak of the dangerous bacteria known as Cyanobacteria, more commonly called blue-green algae. 

But a major redevelopment of the lake, which included the planting of 120,000 wetland plants, has significantly improved the water quality and curtailed algal blooms.  

Mr Sainty has provided MI will a full plan to fix Lake Wyangan, which applies the principles used in Shepparton.  

Mr Sainty’s comments come on the eve of a Griffith City Council committee’s quarterly meeting on  water quality and management of Lake Wyangan, scheduled for Tuesday. 

The Lake Wyangan and Catchment Management Committee is chaired by Griffith mayor John Dal Broi. It includes representatives from Murrumbidgee Irrigation and the general community. 

The issue of blue-green algae is expected to be discussed on Tuesday. 

At the previous meeting in November, a council representative advised a molecular analysis of North Lake Wyangan blue-green algae water samples had not commenced as yet. 

It was stated utilisation of molecular analysis was anticipated to commence in early Summer 2017 in conjunction with the current and continuing long term water sampling regime.

Mr Sainty said he refuses to be on the committee as it would prevent him from talking to the media. 

Greater Shepparton City Council Director Infrastructure, Phil Hoare, explained how blue-green algae was treated in Victoria Park Lake.

“Improvement of water quality at Victoria Park Lake required complete redevelopment including a planted wetland with a pump that recirculates the water around the system – continually passing water through the wetland and back into the lake”.

“​Design and redevelopment required large scale earthmoving to deepening and reshaping the lake bed and banks as to allow different types of plants to grow at different depths.”

Mr Sainty said Griffith has all the equipment and expertise to embark on a similar project around Lake Wyangan – and that it could be done cost effectively. 

"I've told Murrumbidgee Irrigation [MI] and [Griffith City] Council many times they should go down and have a look [to Shepparton]”

“But they won’t listen,” Mr Sainty said

Council is responsible for the management of the north lake, and MI the south. 

In response to Mr Sainty’s comments, council general manager Brett Stonestreet said:

"Lake Wyangan is very important to our community and the improvement of water quality in the Lake is something Council is taking seriously. As has been stated before, there is no one "silver bullet" solution to this and a range of strategies will be needed to make improvements in the medium to longer term. The Lake Wyangan & Catchment Management Committee, of which MI is a stakeholder member, will continue to investigate options for action during this year".

Mr Sainty said he showed an expert from Shepparton what he calls the non-management policy of MI and Council.

“He could not believe they would be so dumb,” Mr Sainty said  

A Griffith City Council’s website has Lake Wyangan at “amber alert”, meaning recreational use is not restricted. However, a different MI website has had south Lake Wyangan at “red alert”, meaning the lake “may not be suitable for recreational use”. 

Victoria Park Lake appears to be in better shape.

Greater Shepparton City Council Director Infrastructure/City Engineer Phil Hoare said since plant establishment they have not had a significant Algal Bloom revealed by their monthly blue-green algae testing. 

“The wetland itself is fully planted with a diverse range of species such as rushes along the edge and fully submerged aquatic vegetation, with added benefit as habitat for fauna which contributes to the ecological health of the system”.

“There were around 120,000 wetland plants planted.  There were a further 50,000 terrestrial plants to support the ecological and aesthetic values of the lake.  These concepts are well known and widely implemented in urban treatment wetlands as part of best practice.”

“The submerged aquatic vegetation is harvested regularly to remove this excess nutrient (now in the plants leaves), but also to allow for recreational activity.”

Mr Sainty said while Victoria Park Lake may be smaller than Lake Wyangan, the principles behind the strategies used in Shepparton can and should be applied to the Griffith lake