AS if last week’s deluge didn’t cause enough trouble.
Now fragile mangrove plantations – carefully reared by Riverwatch volunteers – are under threat from the strangest of enemies – rogue hay bales.
According to Riverwatch’s Charlie Weir, the bales, carried by floodwater last Monday, smashed through fencing and deposited in Broughton Creek.
About 18 of them have now popped up along the Shoalhaven River from Numbaa Island to Comerong Island, with several still caught at the mouth of the creek.
The farmer responsible for them is now being urged to mount an immediate hay bale rescue, before a predicted high tide at the end of the week moves them on.
“The farmer has until today to do something about it,” said Mr Weir.
The hay bales pose a threat to the river environment on a number of different levels.
Most immediately, the soaked bales – which could weigh a tonne each – may smash into delicate juvenile mangroves planted by Riverwatch, which are a crucial part of regenerating the riverbank and solving erosion problems.
They could also destroy the debris fencing that protects the mangroves from day-to-day threats.
Secondly, floating hay bales pose a navigation risk for some watercraft. And if the hay rots into the water, the result is not pleasant.
“We’ve had them in the river before,” said Mr Weir.
“They make a lot phosphorus and that leads to slime.”
Lastly, the plastic and mesh that hold the bales together can choke fish and other aquatic creatures.
Mr Weir warned that heavy penalties could be imposed on farmers who didn’t secure their property during heavy rains, and urged whoever was responsible to remove the hay bales as soon as possible.