Dennis Barker Director Sustainable Communities Surf Coast Shire PO Box 350 Torquay Victoria 3228 9th February 2010 Our project ref: 1963 Dear Dennis, Re: Technical peer review the AECOM (2009) Ecological Site Inspection – Torquay Golf Club report. Introduction Background The Jan Juc Creek is a first order ephemeral creek that is approximately four kilometers long. The catchment is made up of a combination of urban, semi-urban and rural. The majority of the creek underground running through a pipe until it reaches Hoylake Avenue, where the creek is a more natural system. The Torquay Golf Club has applied to the Surf Coast Shire to harvest stormwater from Jan Juc Creek to assist in the short fall in water requirements for the Torquay Golf Club. AECOM (2009) conducted an Ecological Site Inspection to determine if ecological matters will be impacted by the stormwater harvesting. Scope of Work Ecology Partners Pty Ltd was commissioned by Surf Coast Shire to conduct a peer review on the Ecological Site Inspection – Torquay Golf Club report (AECOM 2009) on stormwater harvesting of Jan Juc Creek by the RACV Golf Course. The scope of work included: • A review of the AECOM (2009) report methodology and findings, and a review of the relevant Commonwealth and State aquatic and terrestrial databases; • A statement of the likelihood of whether listed threatened species or communities are likely to be significantly impacted by the proposed works; and, • Recommend if further surveys are required. Other relevant reports which have been undertaken previously for the Torquay Golf Club are Alluvium (2009) and Aurecon (2009) and were reviewed for this report. Results Fish There are no previous records of fish surveys having been conducted within Jan Juc Creek. AECOM (2009) does not provide any details on the likelihood of any fish species occurring within Jan Juc Creek. It is likely that there will be native fish species present. The creek is likely to include both migratory and non-migratory species. The species present will depend on the quality of the habitat and whether the mouth of the creek has been open. Jan Juc Creek may support species such as Common Jollytail Galaxias maculatus, Tupong Psuedophritis urvilli, Australian Mudfish Neochanna cleaveri, Short Finned Eel Anguilla australis, Australian Grayling Prototroctes maraena, Mountain Galaxias Galaxias olidus and Pygmy Perch Nannoperca australis (DPI 2010). The likelihood of native fish species occurring with Jan Juc Creek will be dependant on the quality of the habitat, water quality, flow conditions (frequency and volume) and for those species that require recruitment via a connection to the ocean, require that the mouth of the creek has been or is open. Environmental Assessment There is little data on the current health of the creek from the reports reviewed. A habitat assessment should be conducted using either the Index of Stream Condition (DSE 2006) or the EPA Rapid Bioassessment Habitat proforma (EPA 2003) as a minimum. In addition a water quality assessment and a macroinvertebrate collection should have been conducted and the results compared with the State of the Environment and Protection Policy (Waters of Victoria) (EPA 2003). Environmental Flows The creek is a highly modified waterway along the majority of the length of the drainage line. All stormwater or natural flow is moved underground using a pipeline. The lower length of Jan Juc Creek downstream of Hoylake Avenue is a natural creek system. There is little information within the AECOM (2009) or Aurecon (2009) reports which states the amount of water required within Jan Juc Creek downstream of Hoylake Avenue. Evidence to support the statement that removing water from the system will result in flows more comparable to historic flows is not provided. Further assessment of flows is recommended to determine the minimum requirements to retain the biodiversity values of Jan Juc Creek (e.g. for wading birds, vegetation, fish species, etc). Threatened Species Without knowledge of the habitat features present within Jan Juc Creek it is difficult to ascertain the likelihood of threatened species to occur within the waterway. However, Yarra Pygmy Perch Nannoperca obscura which is nationally listed (under the Environmental Protection Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999) as vulnerable was recorded within Thompson Creek at Horseshoe Bend, approximately seven kilometres from Torquay (AVW 2007). Yarra Pygmy Perch are generally found in areas where there is a high abundance of aquatic vegetation. The Australian Mudfish (as highlighted by CCMA 2009), listed as threatened under the Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988, are generally found in similar locations to Yarra Pygmy Perch but prefer wetland and marshy type of environments and are thought to migrate between oceanic and freshwater environments. There are few historical records of the Australian Mudfish throughout Victoria generally due to the rarity of the species. It is a nocturnal active species that is known to be able to aestivate during drought. Similarly, Australian Grayling, which is also a nationally listed species, is a migrating freshwater species with an oceanic stage; are rare throughout Victoria and are found in coastal drainages. The likelihood of these species occurring depends on whether or not the mouth of the Jan Juc Creek is open to allow for migration of the species from the ocean. Stormwater harvesting may reduce the likelihood of the river mouth opening or the frequency of the mouth being open. There are three records of Growling Grass Frog Litoria raniformis (AVW 2005) within 10 kilometres of the study area. Their presence within the site is dependant on the available habitat. Generally the species prefers deep water holes with a mixture of macrophyte types including, but not limited to, emergent species such as Eleocharis spp. and floating such as pondweed Potamogeton spp. Without an amphibian habitat assessment it is difficult to determine the likelihood of the species occurring within Jan Juc Creek. Further assessments for this species in areas of potentially suitable habitat are recommended. Potential Impacts The AECOM (2009) report examines the impact on vegetation and suggests that the harvesting of stormwater will actually return the waterway more to historical flows. Evidence of this is statement is not supported within the report. In general terms, harvesting water from the Creek and reducing the amount of water within the system may have the following impacts downstream of Hoylake Avenue: • The creek dries up for longer periods. This may also increase the duration for the mouth of the river remaining closed, which can impact on the recruitment of oceanic migratory fish species; • Reduction of the water available for instream biota; • Reduction in the abundance of aquatic plants; • Reduced flow regimes can impact on breeding cues. Several native fish (i.e. Tupong) rely on natural seasonal flow regimes to stimulate spawning and migration. A loss of seasonal flow as a consequence of high levels of water extraction from coastal aquatic systems is one of the major environmental impacts on coastal native fish (Drew 2008); • Increased risk of out-competition of native plants by invasive weed species; • Reduction in the water quality due to evaporation causing pools to become stagnant; • Reduction in the amount of available habitat for native fauna (e.g. fish, waterbirds, native rodents); • Increased risk of predation on fish species from bird species due to a reduced water level; • Potentially increase in risk of physical impacts such as erosion, bank sloughing and sedimentation: and, • An increase in algal bloom frequency. Recommendations It is recommended that the following be undertaken in order to determine the potential impacts of harvesting water from the Jan Juc Creek: • A fish survey by a qualified fish biologist within the creek, especially downstream of Hoylake Avenue, to provide a list of taxa that inhabit the creek and more accurately determine the potential impacts. The Corangamite Catchment Management Authority (CCMA) has provided a letter to the Surf Coast Shire (dated 8 January 2010) recommending an environmental assessment for Australian Mudfish to determine potential impacts. A habitat assessment should also be conducted simultaneously to determine the likelihood of other species occurring in the event that they are not recorded during the proposed survey; • A frog survey including an amphibian habitat assessment to determine the frog species that occur, or may occur within the waterway; • An instream health assessment using a combination of macroinvertebrates and water quality and comparing results to the State of the Environment Protection Policy (Waters of Victoria) (EPA 2003); • A habitat assessment of the creek downstream of the offtake using a standard proforma such as the Index of Stream Condition (DSE 2006) or Rapid Bioassessment Habitat proforma (EPA 2003b); and, • An environmental flow assessment should be considered using the ‘Statewide Method for Determining Environmental Water Requirements in Victoria’ (DNRE 2002). Conclusion The review of the AECOM (2009) report identified that impacts on threatened fauna, the effects of environmental flows and the current health of the creek were not assessed adequately. It is considered that additional environmental assessments are required to gain more comprehensive understanding of the potential impacts of stormwater harvesting on ecological values present within Jan Juc Creek. Yours sincerely, Cameron Amos Senior Aquatic Ecologist Ecology Partners Pty Ltd P: 0399401411 E: email@example.com References AECOM 2009. Ecological Site Inspection – Torquay Golf Club. Report to Royal Automobile Club of Victoria. Alluvium 2009. Impact on Jan Juc Creek and its estuary from stormwater reuse. Report to Royal Automobile Club of Victoria. AVW 2007. Melbourne. Atlas of Victorian Wildlife. Viridians Biological Databases Pty Ltd, Aurecon 2009. Stormwater Harvesting Proposal Torquay Golf Club Redevelopment Royal Automobile Club of Victoria. Report to Royal Automobile Club of Victoria. Corangamite Catchment Management Authority 2009. Stormwater Harvesting Proposal Jan Juc Creek. Letter to Surf Coast Shire Dated 8/1/2010. Department of Natural Resources and Environment 2002. FLOWS – a method for determining environmental water requirements in Victoria. Catchment and Water Division, Department of Natural Resources and Environment, East Melbourne. Department of Primary Industry 2010 Otway/Basin%20TEMPLATE%20Waters.htm). http://www.dpi.vic.gov.au/angling/35- Department of Sustainability and Environment 2006. Index of Stream Condition User’s Manual (2nd edition). Published by the Victorian Government Department of Sustainability and Environment Melbourne, March 2006. Drew, M. M. 2008. A guide to the management of native fish: Victorian coastal rivers, estuaries and wetlands. Department of Sustainability and Environment and Corangamite Catchment Management Authority, Victoria. Environment Protection Authority 2003a. State Environment Protection Policy (Waters of Victoria). Published by the Victorian Government Melbourne, March 2006 Environment Protection Authority 2003b. Guideline for Environment Management Rapid Bioassessment Methodology for Rivers and Streams. Publication 604.1. EPA Victoria, Southbank, Victoria.