Improving fish habitat at Kennington Reservoir

Project updates

Pumps have been installed at the reservoir to slowly release water over the next few weeks.

We will be hosting Talkin Turtles with Graham Stockfeld from Turtles Australia over two sessions on Saturday April 20th.

The first session will be at Goldfields Library Bendigo from 1:30-2:30pm where Graham will introduce us to the world of turtles and even have some live ones with him!

The second will be on site at Kennington Reservoir from 3pm-4pm where we can talk about this project and how we manage turtles.
 

About this project

The City is currently undertaking a major maintenance project to repair the Kennington Reservoir dam wall.  This is due to structural reports recommending that repair work be undertaken to ensure the dam can continue to remain safe and open to the public. This project will result in a reduction in water levels for a short time, temporary removal of the fishing platforms and removal of vegetation from the dam wall.While these engineering works will have necessary short-term environmental effects, thanks to funding from the Victorian Fisheries Authority, the City can take advantage of this rare opportunity to also improve environmental and recreational fishing conditions in the reservoir.

Through this project we will:

  • Deepen parts of the reservoir by creating pools and channels
  • Use the removed timber and root mass to improve fish, frog and turtle habitat
  • Increase the size of the existing habitat island and create turtle breeding sites
  • Plant aquatic vegetation to improve water quality, food and nesting resources for wildlife at the site
  • Increase access for fishing 
  • Restock the reservoir with a more diverse suite of fish species, including some native baitfish

This project will provide better wildlife habitat, better fishing opportunities, fewer algal blooms and improve the look and quality of Kennington Reservoir.

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Illustration of improvements to fish habitat mentioned in about this project.
Kennington Reservoir fish habitat map

Frequently asked questions

How is this work being funded?

The City can do this work thanks to $109,999 in funding from the Victorian Fisheries Authority - Recreational Fishing Grants Program and collaboration with the North Central Catchment Management Authority.

Why is the City undertaking this work?

The water level of the reservoir naturally fluctuates over time but is rarely extensively drained. Over time, storm water brings in silt that builds up, shallowing the reservoir, leading to poorer water quality, algal blooms and reduced habitat and food for aquatic animals (fish, turtles, insects, frogs, waterbirds) that live there.

With water levels dropping due to the dam wall maintenance works, this is the perfect time to address some of these issues and make long-term improvements to the reservoir.

What work is the City doing to improve fish and wildlife habitat?

We will:

  • Increase fish habitat by adding large trees and root mass that are being removed from the dam wall. This large woody debris, along with constructed fish hotels, vegetated benches and baitfish habitat will cater for a range of species, creating self-sustaining populations of angling fish and allowing for a more diverse range of species to be stocked. 
  • Create deeper channels and pools to increase movement to large bodied recreational fish species that are currently stocked in the lake. This will also improve water quality and reduce algal blooms. 
  • Create suitable aquatic habitat for small-bodied native fish, including threatened species.
  • Increase the size of the existing habitat island for turtle and bird breeding.
  • Erect signage that warns of submerged woody debris at the fishing platforms and interpretative signage about the wildlife and habitats present at the site. 
  • Construct a purpose-built canoe ramp to improve water access for non-powered boats (e.g. canoes).
  • Create casting spots along the bank, using rocks, logs and native vegetation to enhance the bank fishing experience for users.
     
How will this work affect fishing at the reservoir?

In the short term, due to the dam wall closure and the temporary removal of fishing jetties, fishing opportunities will be limited. As the water level drops, access to other parts of the reservoir will also be limited and unsafe due to boggy conditions.

Fish health and numbers will be closely monitored as water levels drop. Skilled contractors will perform electrofishing to safely remove or relocate species, and there will be some permanent water remaining on the site to support the remaining population. Fish health will be the primary concern. Once work is finished, fishing opportunities will improve. Kennington Reservoir is already a Premier Fishing site and after these works, conditions will be even better. 

Benefits to the site include:

  • Fishing jetties will be upgraded and reinstated
  • Water levels will return to normal
  • Fish will be restocked (including angling species and baitfish)
  • Some fish will be removed (e.g. European Carp, Goldfish) to improve populations of other species.
  • Casting spots will be created around the edge of the reservoir
  • Purpose-built canoe ramps will be in place to allow better access to canoes
  • Fish breeding habitat, such as logs, root mass, artificial structures, fish hotels and aquatic plants will allow populations to become self-sustaining and more diverse and improve water quality
  • Deeper channels and pools will provide movement and refuge spaces and better fishing 
  • Interpretive signs will be installed, highlighting available fish species and their habitats
What wildlife currently lives in Kennington Reservoir?

Kennington Reservoir and the surrounding area is home to abundant wildlife. Those most reliant on the waterbody include:

  • Fish (inc. Redfin, Goldfish, European Carp, Tench, Flatheaded Gudgeon, Rainbow Trout, Golden Perch)
  • Turtles (inc. Eastern Long-necked Turtle, Murray River Turtle, Broad-shelled Turtle)
  • Macroinvertebrates
  • Waterbirds and waders (inc. herons, egrets, cormorants, ducks, swans, rails, dotterels, pelican, grebes, moorhen, coot, swamphen, spoonbill)
  • Crustaceans (inc. Common Yabbie, Freshwater Shrimp)
  • Frogs (inc. Banjo Frog, Spotted Marsh Frog)
  • Mussels
  • Insects (inc. Dragonflies)
  • Mammals (inc. Rakali)
     
What will happen to wildlife while work is being done?

While works are being conducted, the reservoir will look very different. The water level will be very low, it will be muddy and messy and much of the wildlife will either congregate in remaining low water or move to suitable nearby sites. Less mobile species and those more at risk of water loss will be closely monitored and relocated where necessary.

Many species will be able to find suitable shelter or alternate habitat, either by burying themselves into the mud (e.g. turtles, frogs), moving to other sites (birds, mammals, turtles, fish, frogs) or staying put and making the most of available resources (aquatic insects, fish, turtles). The site will be monitored closely, and animals are expected to return once work is complete and habitat is improved.

How will the City keep wildlife safe?

The City is implementing several strategies to keep wildlife as safe as possible during work. These include:

  • Monitoring of the wildlife at the site by qualified City staff, the North Central CMA, fishing contractors and Turtles Australia. Qualified salvage operators will be tasked with relocating species if necessary. 
  • Having street signs on adjacent roads warning of turtles crossing and asking motorists to slow down.
  • Erecting temporary fenced areas to limit turtle movement and act as a sanctuary for turtles found wandering.
  • Conducting electrofishing to safely monitor, relocate or remove fish species.
  • Contractors and staff will take care when conducting earthworks to identify and remove wildlife within the work zone.
  • Signage around the site about the project and potential short-term risks to wildlife.
  • Engaging Environmental Science students at Victory Christian College to monitor the effects of works during and after and reporting concerns.
     
What can I do if I see affected wildlife?

All native wildlife are protected in Victoria and must not be willfully harmed. If you see affected wildlife, it is preferable to contact qualified handlers, unless the animal is in imminent danger. Do not put your own safety at risk.

If it is necessary to handle an animal, ensure surroundings are safe, take care and be aware that animals can bite, scratch and when scared may release bodily fluids. They should be moved only as far as necessary to keep them safe from immediate harm.

If you see injured wildlife contact Wildlife Victoria on (03) 8400 7300 (24 hrs, 7 days) or report online

For other wildlife or works concerns, contact us by email or phone

Will aquatic vegetation survive?

It is likely that some existing aquatic vegetation will suffer from exposure to dry conditions and damage from earthworks. Some species can tolerate periods of dryness if subsoil moisture remains, while some will remain in permanently wet areas left during work. We expect some of the existing community will return following work.

A diverse aquatic vegetation community will also be planted following earthworks to create a healthier waterbody and provide food and habitat for wildlife.

Where will waterbirds go?

Waterbirds are very used to fluctuating water supplies and will often travel great distances to find suitable spots. Waterbirds at the site are expected to move to other nearby waterbodies in the short-term or may choose to remain if there are enough available resources.

Some species (e.g. black swans) currently have young, but these appear old enough to safely travel to other sites if necessary. These species will be monitored.

It is expected that species will return to the new and improved site following works.
 

Where will turtles go?

Three species of turtle are believed to live in Kennington Reservoir. These are:

  • Eastern Long-necked turtle
  • Murray River Turtle
  • Broad-shelled turtle

These species will adopt one of three strategies as the water level drops:

  1. Bury themselves in the mud. This is common practice for some species during the cooler months. Care will be taken when conducting earthworks to monitor turtle presence.
  2. Get moving. Some species will respond to the drop in water (or after rain events) to move location. Eastern Long-necked Turtles especially do this. This puts them at risk of injury when moving toward roads and human habitations. Temporary fencing and road signage will be installed to manage this risk where necessary.
  3. Follow the water. Some will simply move with the water as it lowers and remain in the small pools that will be there throughout the work. These likely need no assistance.

For more information on turtle species and their habits, visit: 34 Types of Turtles In Australia - All Turtles

And you can report sightings here: TurtleSAT

What happens if it rains?

We can’t control the weather and there is a high chance we will receive rain during the work period. As the reservoir has not been fully drained in a long time, we also don’t know the condition of the ground. If necessary, we will continue to pump or release water from the reservoir to enable work to continue. If conditions become unsafe or unfavorable to conduct the necessary works, then the work program will be amended accordingly, likely limiting the amount of earthworks that can be conducted. All other work should remain unchanged.

What happens after the work is completed?

The site will be greatly improved as wildlife habitat, for water quality and for recreational fishing. Water will return naturally and species will return. Full recreational access to reservoir will resume.

  • Angling fish species will be restocked. We will also explore stocking the reservoir with additional native fish species, such as catfish, cod, northern river blackfish and small-bodied native fish. We have had multiple successes working with the North Central CMA in this region, reintroducing important fish species into waterways and dams to increase populations.
  • The fishing jetties will be replaced with new ones. We will work to ensure the best result for recreational fishers and place fish habitat at appropriate places around these platforms to enhance recreational fishing from these locations.
  • Interpretive and safety signage will be installed to better engage the community in the fishing and wildlife values of the site.
  • We will continue to monitor the site and report on the success of works in improving natural values.
  • We will continue to improve natural and recreation values of the site. For instance, low-growing grassland species will replace larger vegetation on dam wall.

We expect all work to be completed by the end of 2024.

How can I find out more?

We will promote all activities and events through this website, via media and the Environmental Matters Newsletter.

Several community events are planned during the work period.

  • We will hold two turtle workshops on Saturday April 20th. The first will be at Goldfields Library Bendigo from 1:30-2:30pm. The second will be on site at Kennington Reservoir from 3pm-4pm. 
  • We will work with angling groups and the community to build fish hotels from sourced timber. This will allow us to engage the community in the project and promote recreational fishing to a broader audience.
  • We will provide information and QR codes for further project information, upcoming events and monitoring (e.g. TurtleSAT, iNaturalist) at the site to encourage community involvement. The notice board at the site will be regularly updated.

For all other questions, contact us.