Residents say creek build-up puts Bluff Bridge at risk
RESEMBLING a dam constructed by overly ambitious beavers, a backlog of trees in a Glenreagh creek has residents worried about its impact on local bridges.
Anyone driving the Orara Way in recent times may have caught a glimpse of what is fast becoming the Tallawudjah Creek dam, a massive conglomerate of trees - most of which is camphor laurel - wedged just east of the bridge into town.
It has a number of locals worried about the potential for the trees to become dislodged and impact the Bluff Bridge downstream, the notorious Orara River crossing which is often inundated in flood.
Orara Valley Lions Club president Noel Backman said if the Bluff Bridge was taken out, there would be a tremendous impact on the community, from school kids to emergency services.
He was also concerned if the debris remained, it could increase the flood level.
"Our concern is that all this build up of camphor laurel - that has never happened before - is going to cause a great deal of hardship when we get a flood," he said.
"All this debris is going to find its way to the Bluff Bridge and could do a lot of damage, if not knock it over, as it did the Kangaroo Creek bridge and Glenreagh Mountain Railway rail bridge."
To make matters worse, the blockage has diverted the water flow during floods and appeared to be accelerating erosion in some areas, bringing more trees into the river.
Frustrated at their powerlessness to prevent what they believe is a disaster waiting to happen, there is a sense the close-knit community feels their desire to do things for themselves is being stifled by environmental laws and uncertainty over who is responsible.
Despite camphor laurel being a noxious weed, Clarence Valley Council manager of civil services, Alex Dalrymple confirmed logs and trees in watercourses are classified as large woody debris, "removal of which is listed as a key threatening process under the Fisheries Management Act".
This was something Mr Backman was writing to local politicians about, in an effort to have the law amended so in some cases trees like camphor laurel could be taken out if they were having the type of impact such as at Tallawudjah Creek.
And while the Department of Planning Industry and Environment - Crown Lands are officially responsible for the waterway, a spokesperson for the department said maps "show the creek line appears to meander in and out of waterway boundaries".
This meant in some cases it could be the responsibility of landowners, pending confirmation of exactly where the debris was situated.
"Crown Lands has contacted Clarence Valley Council, which advised it is working with landowners to consider management options along Tallawudjah Creek," the spokesperson said.
"Clarence Valley Council can exercise powers under the Local Government Act to undertake any emergency mitigation works if the timber becomes a concern for flooding or bridge infrastructure.
"Crown Lands will continue to liaise with Council on the matter."
However, Mr Dalrymple made it clear a clean up was not on council's radar.
"We only consider the removal of debris like this where there is a public safety concern, bridges are designed to withstand debris impact loads and we don't consider there to be a public safety concern in this instance," he said.