OWENS Creek is a small tributary of the Pioneer River that flows from the hills near Mt Charlton, alongside then into Cattle Creek near Gargett.
Along the way, it is an important water source for properties, as well as having plenty of quiet fishing spots and pretty places for picnics and birdwatching.
Some parts of Owens Creek, however, have been badly eroded as a result of historical vegetation removal and cattle access. Streambank erosion affects downstream users of the river as well the landholders who, in some cases, watch more of their properties crumble into the stream each wet season.
On one section of the river, rock bank armouring has been used to help stabilise the bank; over time, the armouring has altered the flow patterns. Erosion has been reduced but there has been little vegetation established on the new rocky banks and costly repairs have been needed.
A more natural bank stabilisation alternative has been shown to be very effective on a number of high-flow rivers in southern Australia and recently the technology has been brought to Queensland.
An Engineered Log Jam (ELJ) is a structure made out of fallen hardwood logs, which are anchored into a bank and into the streambed. The logs, which can be up to 8m long and 650mm in diameter, are arranged in a criss-cross stack so they slow water flow.
On the O'Connell River, where four ELJ structures were built near Cathy O'Connell River Road last year, the highest velocity part of the river has been realigned, reducing erosion on critical banks and forming pools where fish congregate above the log jams. The reduced erosion means downstream water quality is better and the revegetation program will improve riparian habitat.
The O'Connell site is the first step towards demonstrating ELJ technology is suitable for our tropical high-flow rivers.
Dr Andrew Brooks, a senior research fellow at the Australian Rivers Institute, is advising Reef Catchments and Pioneer Catchment and Landcare Group staff on how to approach a new project on Owens Creek.
Funded by the Queensland Government, construction will start on the new project in the dry season.