Council to trial channel closure

RICHMOND Valley Council has voted to close a controversial channel connected to Salty Lagoon at Evans Head.

The lagoon is used as a catchment for sewerage treatment plant disposal, but the amount of nutrients entering it significantly reduced three years ago when the plant was upgraded.

The channel, which runs between Salty Lagoon and Salty Creek, is responsible for channelling saltwater through to the freshwater system of Salty Lagoon, which in turn causes nutrient-rich sediment in the lake to stir, upsetting oxygen levels and causing fish kills.

At a council meeting on Tuesday night, Cr Charlie Cox said the council ‘hopes to restore Salty Lagoon to its original natural state’.

Acting on the advice from the NSW Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water, the council has spent in excess of $1.2 million enacting a nine-point plan that has researched, monitored and assessed the lagoon.

Cr Shirley Wheatley put forward the recommendation for the channel’s closure on a trial basis.

Evans Head local Dr Richard Gates spoke out against the proposal, saying it would make an already significant burden worse.

“The recommendation that the artificial channel should be closed is problematic as the lake continues to receive various nutrients from the sewerage treatment plant, both directly and indirectly,” he said.

“In effect you will be creating a closed system, adding nutrients to an already significant nutrient burden and expecting the system to get better.

“The treatment plant is still discharging several tonnes of nitrogen, with phosphorus and other contaminants. They are acting to fertilise an already heavily fertilised lake system.”

However, Richmond Valley Council manager of water, sewers and pools, Terry Seymour believes the artificial channel was causing significant problems.

“Because you have an open passage between the two, the channel allows the potential for the creek to drain the water from the lagoon and when that happens there is no habitat for the fish,” he said.

Mr Seymour said there were still a number of applications and processes to go through before the closure could be implemented.

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