Healthy Catchments Program

Healthy Catchments Program

 

Improving community flood resilience, reducing the risk to agricultural assets as well as improving water quality by reducing sediment load through instream and gully remediation works.

 

Mark Waud at a workshop with landholdersThis long-running program protects agricultural land and environmental values by reducing gully and streambank erosion.The Healthy Catchments Program delivers stream bank and gully stabilisation projects in areas identified as contributing high sediment loads to Ramsar-listed Moreton Bay.

This long-running program kicked off in 2010 and has now entered its fourth phase - due to end June 2023. The focus of each iteration has evolved, with earlier works being larger engineering projects such as log jams to stabilise eroding banks on major waterways, while currently a higher number of smaller-scale gully erosion projects are being delivered.

Gully and streambank projects control erosion and improve bank stability and water quality by reducing sediment and turbidity in waterways.

Projects span from small-scale gully repairs to large-scale gully and instream engineering works, early interventions, and involving and educating landholders in identifying erosion risks.

Key things delivered by the project:

  • Reducing sediment and improving water quality.
  • Protecting agricultural land and environmental values by reducing gully and streambank erosion.
  • Between 10,000 and 12,000 tonnes of sediment have been prevented from polluting waterways each year.
  • Work has been delivered in the Upper Laidley, Bremer, Warrill, and Mid Brisbane sub-catchments.

Brisbane Catchments Network Online Mapping ToolStabilising banks and gullies to improve water quality and reduce sediment and turbidity in the waterways.

The process of reducing sediment involves:

  • Implementing best practice technologies for instream bank rehabilitation projects.
  • Utilising the revegetation principles outlined in the South East Queensland Ecological Framework for project delivery and engagement to ensure consistent and sustainable project outcomes.
  • Prioritising areas identified as having high agricultural value undertaking remediation works and installing erosion prevention structures to reverse degradation and loss of productive land.
  • Weed suppression and maintaining minor repairs in regrowth areas.

 

In 2023, the team delivered 18 engineering projects across ten properties.

 

What we are doing

There have been multiple iterations of the program since 2010 and it is currently in its fourth phase. During that time, work has been delivered in focus areas across the region, in the upper reaches of the Lockyer, Bremer, Logan, and Albert catchments and now Mid-Brisbane catchments.

Log work for Healthy Catchments Program phase 4Implementing best practice technologies for instream bank rehabilitation.

This phase of the program (phase 4) focuses on works in the Bremer, Warril, and Mid-Brisbane sub-catchments and focuses on a high number of small-scale gully erosion projects, paired with the establishment of a vegetated buffer area called ‘refuge gullies’ and landholder education in the Bremer, Warrill, and Mid-Brisbane sub-catchments. 

Phase 4 focuses on:

  • Repairing: Repairing gullies and streambanks using engineered solutions, such as leaky weirs, rock chutes, walls, and revetments.
  • Protecting: Creating ‘refuge gullies’ around these structures with targeted vegetation planting to increase canopy cover to 20-30%.
  • Maintenance: Maintaining past streambank and gully repair project sites.
  • Capacity building: Landholder education to increase awareness and skills on the key fundamentals of identifying erosion risks, and erosion prevention activities including how to prevent major gully systems from forming, and how to design and construct small-scale gully remediation projects on their land.

 

Earlier phases focused on gully and streambank projects to control erosion and improve bank stability and water quality by reducing sediment and turbidity in waterways:

  • Successfully stabilised 3.8km of the creek and gully banks with earthworks, revegetation, and weed control.
  • Six large instream projects were completed across the various sub-catchments.
  • This included larger engineering projects such as log jams to stabilise eroding banks on major waterways.

 

Measuring success

The projects improve rural community flood resilience and reduce the risk to agricultural assets as well as improve water quality by reducing sediment load through instream and gully remediation works.

Some of the impacts delivered across the program include:

  • Successfully stabilised 3.8km of the creek and gully banks with earthworks, revegetation, and weed control.
  • Six large instream projects were completed across the various sub-catchments.
  • In addition, recent assessments have shown that between 10,000 and 12,000 tonnes of sediment have been prevented from polluting waterways each year as a direct result of the Healthy Catchments Program.
  • Hundreds have benefitted from information provided at field days focused on the key fundamentals of identifying erosion risks, erosion prevention activities, and how to design and construct small-scale gully remediation projects on their land, landholders gain awareness and skills.

  

Why this project is important

Reaches of the Upper Bremer, Upper Warrill, and Upper Laidley sub-catchments were identified as the largest contributors of sediment in Moreton Bay in a 2010 joint Healthy Land & Water and Griffith University study.

Streambank and gully erosion is a major source of sediment entering our waterways.

Accordingly, the program has focused on gully and in-stream bank stabilisation to reduce sediment and improve water quality. This phase of the program has also extended to include the Mid-Brisbane sub-catchment.

Keeping sediment in the landscape and slowing the water flow in the upper catchments, prevents it from being mobilised into waterways, endangering the ecosystems downstream.

Reducing streambank and gully erosion protects productive agricultural land and, through targeted vegetation planting, can also increase bank stabilisation, and rain infiltration, reduce surface runoff and provide a stable area for sediment deposition, improving environmental outcomes for landholders as well as flood resilience.

Gully erosion is stopped using hard engineering, through the installation of rock chutes within gullies and leaky weirs to drown head cuts, and the trial of ‘green solutions’, with the continued use of Vetiver grass as green energy reduction structures and cement mats as a viable alternative to rock structures to deliver more environmentally friendly and cost-efficient solutions. Gullies and the surrounding area are fenced off and replanted with native trees to produce a habitat refuge within the grazing paddock.

 

Project snapshot

Project name:  Healthy Catchments Program (now in Phase 4)
Project manager:  Samille Loch-Wilkinson and Margie Dickson, Health Land & Water
Catchment: South East Queensland
Timing: Phase 1: Commenced in 2010.  Phase 4: 2020 – 2023
Budget: $2.2 M ($800,000 2022/23)
Partnerships: 

This program in all its phases has been funded by the Queensland Government's Department of Environment and Science and run in collaboration with all the landholders in the targeted areas. These collaborations have been key to the project's success.

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What's next

There is huge potential to build on the successful work and negotiations for the extension of the project over an additional five years are underway.

 

Project collaborators

This program in all its phases has been funded by the Queensland Government's Department of Environment and Science and runs in collaboration with all the landholders in the targeted areas.

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Reducing the volume of sediment entering Moreton Bay and improving rural communities' flood resilience.