“Every site we visited was at least a decade old.” said Ella Maesepp of Katanning Landcare. “We were sure there was much to be learnt from trial sites that were in the spotlight back then; We wanted to hear from those host farmers and find out, warts and all, how management techniques set up all those years ago have fared long term and been integrated into day to day farming operations.”
There first stop was to view the deep drainage channels that Todd Gray, farmer from North Moulyinning installed in late 2007. Todd presented a comprehensive picture of the scenario he was facing prior to the drains. He explained to the Group of the seven years preceding the drain where he didn’t put a crop in because it was un trafficable and even after 7-8 mm of rain, puddles appeared everywhere. Initially it was the waterlogging that was the problem forcing the tractor driver to navigate around 1-2 ha of puddles when ripping up the paddocks was still practised according to Todd.
He indicated where the trees located nearby were planted in 1991 by his Aunty and himself as that was the first bit of salt that popped up after he had come home.
After the drain was installed it didn’t take long for the waterlogging to stop and according to Todd, it’s made a huge difference, saying it may not fix all the salt, but it certainly has helped and also given us options.
Silverosa lucerne had been established and was going well until the flood in 2017 which destroyed the stand. Todd had four good years of using it for grazing and was very happy with it. He is willing to have another crack at it this year.
The pilot drainage system that starts on Todd’s farm block to the North of this site has been a lot of hard work to get it right and the best thing is all the farmers agreed to be on board when they were approached with the initial idea. At a meeting held last year the farmers support was re enforced when every Landholder in the scheme attended a drainage meeting.
Originally there were 14 farmers involved and it started in the early 2000’s when the Shire and the Waters and Rivers commenced working together to design a pilot drainage scheme.
A grant from the WA Government for about $1.2 million was the catalyst to move forward with the concept plan. The scheme was originally for 52 km and took about six months to put in. The design specified 5:1 batter to make the water move faster but this design lowered the banks too much, which allowed flood water to flow into the drain and caused breaches where it had been graded too low. During maintenance the banks were made higher.
The volume of water taken out of the profile has made a huge difference to these paddocks. It’s not an insignificant cost but Todd believes it’s well worth it.
Todd explained that he has probably saved a good 100 ha and in the process the waterlogging has stopped where there wasn’t salt, it has been amazing how fast the turnaround has been.
The drainage system empties out into a natural creekline on another one of his farms, located south of the Dumbleyung / Lake Grace highway which was cleared in 1908 and started going salty in 1910. The water goes about 200 m into the farm and evaporates during summer.
The drains have stabilised since the ungrazed bluebush has grown in the fenced area and Todd anticipates that maintenance is only going to be a once in decade, providing there is no other flood events!
Drone photo courtesy Peter Clifton, South West Catchments Council.