Call for open minds

From a letter sent to the editor of The Southern Argus, with permission from the author.

5 October 2009

Dear sir

Kieran Fitzgerald (The Southern Argus October 1st 2009) is to be commended for his thoughtful and balanced analysis of past influences and future possibilities for the River and Lower Lakes in these times of climatic crisis. 

It is unfortunate that people with political motives and devious agendas have sought to make these issues so controversial in the public consciousness that governments have delayed actions which could and should have been taken to minimise the inevitable environmental and human consequences of an unprecedented drought.

As catchment inflows remain at near record lows, it has become clear to most people that the ‘freshwater only’ mantra of the protest groups, Alexandrina Council and, more recently, the SA Government’s Department of Environment and Heritage; is little more than wishful thinking. Long term planning for the Lower Lakes must not exclude the possible use of seawater to maintain natural levels.

While Goolwa can celebrate the temporary return of water to their channel, levels will continue to fall in Lake Alexandrina and Lake Albert over summer, exposing vast areas of sand and potentially acid mud. Corrosive dust storms will place human health and habitation under threat; while upstream, slumping banks dump valuable shacks and riverside houses into the deep.

In the face of these threats, I strongly support Kieran Fitzgerald’s call for an open minded scientific examination of the potential environmental advantages and disadvantages of a permanent weir and lock at Wellington and a return of the lakes to a marine/estuarine ecosystem – fresh when river flows are sufficient but with levels remaining at sea level when flows are low.

We have nothing to lose, for if the ‘freshwater’ advocates are correct there will be sufficient flows to keep the Lakes fresh; but if flows do remain low into the future, the river can be kept full and the current disaster of emptying lakes can be averted. A lake without water is not a lake – lakes need water!

Yours etc

Trevor Harden