Strathmore gully | Landholders Driving Change

Strathmore gully remediation gets cultural heritage go-ahead

A CULTURAL clearance report has given the nod to LDC to carry out its fourth large-scale gully remediation project. The assessment concluded there were no impediments to accessing, or traversing the project footprint.

A cultural heritage survey and impact assessment was completed at the gully site on Strathmore in consultation with the Birriah People to address NQ Dry Tropics’ obligations and cultural heritage duty of care under the Queensland Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act 2003.

Aboriginal cultural heritage surveys are conducted to identify places in the landscape which contain or embody Aboriginal heritage values, not just sites.

Michele Bird, of North Queensland Cultural Heritage Pty Ltd was commissioned, and endorsed by Birriah Cultural Heritage Services, as technical advisor and project archaeologist to assist the Birriah people in coordinating a cultural field survey of planned remediation sites.

A number of artefacts were found and, having collected them for safe-keeping, the  Birriah People determined there were no other obstacles to the project.

Representatives who attended the fieldwork on Strathmore Station were: Birriah Elder Algon Walsh; Birriah cultural officers James Palmer and Rasharna Prior; North Qld Cultural Heritage’s Michele Bird; and NQ Dry Tropics’ LDC representative Daniel Hazelman.

Archaeologist Michele Bird from North Queensland Cultural Heritage during the Birriah Cultural Heritage survey at Strathmore Station.

NQ Dry Tropics landscape remediation project officer Dan Hazelman at the gully remediation site on Strathmore Station.

Work begins on complicated Strathmore Station gully

Work is expected to start in September on LDC’s fourth large-scale gully on Strathmore Station near the Bowen River rodeo grounds, 1.3km from the Bower River bridge.

The location was selected by the Griffith University project team as a high-value site to reduce fine sediments entering the Great Barrier Reef lagoon. 

Remediation will focus on a number of the highly-active gullies on a small right-hand tributary to Red Hill Creek, which joins Red Hill Creek about 2km upstream from the confluence of the creek and Bowen River. 

The design has been led by engineering firms Verterra and Alluvium Consulting as an Unincorporated Joint Venture. They will manage the works which will be carried out by local contractors.

The works comprise :

  • Re-shaping and soil amelioration of the northern gullies .
  • Construction of a contour drain that will direct flows into a single-entry point.
  • Construction of an in-channel rock chute to capture sediment.
  • Soil amelioration of disturbed areas (sub-surface and surface).
  • Soil amelioration and revegetation of disturbed gully and scalded areas.
  • Installation of fencing around the works.

A field walk to inspect and discuss the gully remediation efforts will be held following the completion of works.

The other LDC large-scale gully sites in the BBB are at Glen Bowen, (you can read all about it in this edition), and Mt Wickham.

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Figure 1. Total fine sediment reduction by project type and erosion source. Inset shows the proportion of the total project area for each project type.

These estimates have been calculated using two methods: 

1) The pollutant reduction component of the Alluvium/Great Barrier Reef Foundation (GBRF) investment tool for hillslope and streambank erosion management projects; 

2) The Reef Trust Gully Toolbox method for gully erosion management projects. The LDC Water Quality Report 2020 (Waterhouse et al., 2020) highlights that a number of assumptions underlay these calculations, therefore these figures should be treated as the best available estimate of sediment reductions to date.

Preventing sediment from reaching the Great Barrier Reef

Each wet season sediment is washed into local waterways and out to the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). 

Most sediment is very fine, and can stay suspended for a long time and can travel great distances. Valuable topsoil is lost from production, and increased concentrations on the reef can be harmful to seagrasses and corals. 

Landholders in the BBB have completed 69 on-ground water quality practice changes, and it is estimated that these have contributed a fine sediment reduction of 6,154 tonnes per year from reaching the GBR. 

Of this, approximately half of the sediment savings are attributable to grazing land management changes on hillslopes and streambanks, and the other half as a result of gully remediation treatments across a broad range of scales, as shown in the graphs above. 

The table below also highlights the relatively small area of intervention in the gully management projects compared to the large sediment savings that these can achieve - 60 per cent of the sediment savings over only 4 per cent of the project area.

Table 1. Estimated sediment reductions (tonnes) from projects completed in the LDC Project to date.

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*GLMWW = Grazing Land Management Wire and Water

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*The Exploring New Incentives activity area has provided an opportunity for graziers to adopt improved land management practices through a range of activities. For some of these properties, it was the first time they signed contracts for on-ground works.

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The LDC project monitors four gully sites (represented in this table) with gold standard equipment and analysis, carried out by CSIRO.

Results have been compiled in a preliminary report from Bartley et al (2020), with the final report expected to be released by the end of 2020. The preliminary report shows all four sites have indicators of improvements, notably the Strathbogie and Mt Wickham sites.

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Reef regulations - grazing, standard conditions

  1. For land in good or fair condition (more than 50 per cent ground cover at 30 September), continue using measures to maintain land condition.
  2. For land in poor condition (less than 50 per cent ground cover at 30 September), steps must be taken to improve land condition.
  3. For land in degraded condition (less than 20 per cent ground cover at 30 September), steps must be taken to improve land condition OR prevent areas from further degrading or expanding.
  4. Keep records of measures taken and also of agricultural chemicals, fertiliser and mill mud or mill ash applied to land.
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