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Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Low river hurts Cobram businesses

River recreation specialists say they are still counting the cost of low river heights over Easter period.

ROB HENSON July 7, 2014 3:35am

Local businesses relying on river recreation are still counting the cost of low river levels during the Easter period.

Cobram Outdoors and Disposals’ owner Sam Kennedy said the water lowering had dealt a severe blow to his business, reducing his usual business by half.

‘‘It’s not just Cobram, it’s rippled through the whole industry, through to wholesalers in Melbourne,’’ Mr Kennedy said.

He said disgruntled anglers visiting the area were less likely to return after years of floods, out-of-season environmental flows and changes to crayfishing regulations.

Ironically, Mr Kennedy said fishing had improved as the river lowered.

‘‘As soon as the water dropped, it turned on — the fishing’s fired up,’’ he said.

Paddle steamer Cobba’s operator Danny Dunn said he expected the river to lower, but not two weeks earlier than usual.

‘‘I was loading people off the sand with a set of stairs, it’s definitely not ideal, especially for oldies,’’ Mr Dunn said.

Private bookings continue and regular tours have ceased during winter, while the low water level limits the paddle steamer’s movements.

The owner of a boat hire business said the low water level also exacerbated problems with the boat ramp near Thompsons Beach.

In late June, releases from the Hume Reservoir were steady at minimum flows of 600Ml/day as the Hume Reservoir stands at 49 per cent capacity.

Murray Darling Basin Authority head of river operations David Dreverman said river levels immediately downstream of major storages were typically low at this time of year.

Mr Dreverman said the MDBA focused on storing water in dams in readiness for irrigation demand later in the year.

‘‘The MDBA only makes regulated releases of water down the river when owners of the water, such as irrigators and environmental water holders, order it,’’ Mr Dreverman said.

‘‘We can’t continue sending water down the river for a few extra days or weeks if the owners don’t ask for it. That would lead to reduced reliability for entitlement holders.

‘‘Further downstream, flows depend on inflows from tributaries entering the river.

‘‘By the end of June, flows will be exceeding channel capacity through the Barmah-Millewa forest due to inflows from the Kiewa and Ovens rivers.

‘‘Currently there is only small demand for water, mainly for environmental use, and those demands are being met from tributary inflows.

‘‘In delivering water, we do take account of recreational events like boating festivals and water ski races, and try to meet desired flows and levels whenever possible.

‘‘We can only do that within the constraints of broader system and other priority requirements.’’

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