CRY ME A RIVER: Update from EPA on Richmond River

ABOVE: Below Irving Bridge in Casino, the Richmond River is a wreck. Photos: Susanna Freymark

Susanna Freymark

The glory of the Richmond River was diminished by the record-breaking floods that started February 28.

In Casino, water lapped at Irving Bridge with the river reaching a reported height of at least 17 metres.

The view from the bridge looks starkly different three weeks on.

An Environment Protection Authority representative said the EPA was leading a program to help communities and councils to recover by removing man-made and natural flood debris that is a navigational hazard from our rivers, estuaries, and adjacent coastlines.

The program is co-funded by the NSW and Commonwealth Governments. The EPA program covers the clean-up of flood debris on public land and in waterways.

“The program manages clean-up of natural debris where it poses a risk to human health and the environment. This would typically be trees and logs which have been washed into waterways and present a significant navigational hazard to waterway users. In some cases natural debris may also be removed from beaches where it presents a risk.” the EPA representative said.

“The Richmond River is a very large waterway and the impacts on the surrounding areas have been significant.

“The EPA currently has contractors working in the Wilson River and several areas of the Richmond River and around Ballina”.

Since early March, more than three semi-trailer loads (270m3) of waste has been removed from the rivers.

“It is likely clean up will be on going for several months.”

Anyone can report flood based debris to the EPA’s Environment Line on 131 555 or by email: info@epa.nsw.gov.au. For assistance with flood impacts on private land please contact Service NSW.

In Casino the Richmond River viewing platform was completely destroyed and the platypus concrete sculptures are gone. Washed away when the force of the swollen river broke its banks.

The vegetation is mostly dead, suffocated by the waters.

The restoration of the river is going to take some time.

Richmond Valley Council general manager Vaughan Macdonald said the Richmond River and its riverbanks, including the riparian zone, falls under the ownership of the NSW Government’s Crown Lands.

“Council is responsible for toilet facilities, park areas and amenities, roads and footpaths,” he said.

“The habitat, vegetation damage and erosion are significant and will take some time to recover.”

The rubbish washed along in the floods won’t be easy to remove.

“Some rubbish and debris will not be accessible due to steep riverbanks,” Mr Macdonald said.

“Council is doing work to restore access to the footbridge and we’ve asked the Australian Defence Force to assess what support it may be able to provide.”

Here are photos of river damage in Casino.

Mr Macdonald said the Richmond River was one of the most valued landmarks in the regions and the council would do what it could to make it look great again with the support of other levels of government.

“At this stage we are not aware of specific funds dedicated to the river clean-up of rubbish and debris from this flood event,” he said.

Nowhere along the river escaped the breaking of the banks.

“The way in which the Richmond Valley was impacted by the river flow rises and local run off is incredibly complex. By providing just a river height will not paint the full picture nor include the other factors which took place during this disaster,” Mr Macdonald said.

“The expert review announced this week by the NSW Government will look at these and many other issues.”

A good example is the Richmond River in Casino and surrounds, along with Evans Head and surrounds, were impacted by intense localised bursts of rain. The height of the Richmond and Evans rivers, along with the additional stormwater, intensified the matter causing additional localised flooding and major flooding levels in both rivers, he said.

“Coraki, Woodburn, Broadwater and everywhere in between were impacted not only from the Richmond River but also the full force of the Wilsons River catchment, with this impacting southern areas from New Italy across to the Bungawalbin, west to Whiporie and beyond.”

Daniel Cohen took this footage of the Richmond River at Casino on March 1.

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