Salinity management options, farmer subsidies included in $1.6m Wheatbelt salinity initiative

7 March 2006

The Avon Catchment Council today announced details of a comprehensive $1.6 million initiative to help counter dryland salinity throughout the Wheatbelt region.

The project is being funded by the WA and Federal Governments through the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality (NAPSWQ).

It will involve several aspects of salinity management in the Wheatbelt region including:
• Safe disposal of acidic groundwater from current drainage schemes;
• Progressing governance for major drainage works;
• Subsidies to encourage oil mallee plantings;
• Subsidies to encourage saltland pastures plantings in valley floors; and
• An incentive for catchment groups to bid for funding to implement existing integrated salinity management plans.

Initially, the project will investigate safe disposal options for acidic groundwater discharged by current deep drainage networks, and contribute to the assessment of the potential for regional drainage systems to help manage salinity.

A major initiative involves the ACC working in partnership with the Department of Conservation and Land Management (CALM) to minimise the effects of acid groundwater currently discharging into Seagroatt Nature Reserve from the Narembeen deep drainage network.

The two-year project will involve close consultation with all stakeholders, the local community and negotiations with relevant local shire councils to define appropriate management arrangements.

An engineering feasibility and environmental impact assessment will then be used to help design and implement a suitable acid groundwater disposal solution.

An additional component of the salinity management initiative involves making subsidies available for oil mallee plantings to maximise landscape water use. The capacity of the oil mallee industry will be further developed by focusing investment within an 80 km radius of Wickepin (within year one) to capitalise on the Western Power Integrated Wood Processing plant in Narrogin.

A further aspect of the initiative will focus on encouraging the productive uses of saline land in valley floors. Strategic investment will subsidise saltland pasture planting, focusing on valley floors affected by salinity in the eastern Wheatbelt.

The Avon Catchment Council is keenly aware that through previous Landcare funding opportunities, groups of landholders, Catchment Landcare Coordinators and LCDCs have invested a lot of time, energy and capital in developing integrated catchment management plans. A market-based incentive program is being developed to enable groups and organisations to bid for funding to implement existing integrated salinity management plans within a regional strategy. This auction will be advertised later in the year.

More information on all aspects of the salinity management program is available from Liz Kington on 9690 2250.

Media Contact:
Rochelle Pyle, Avon Catchment Council, 9690 2250