General News

23 May, 2024

Council Ordered to Remove Monkey Bridge by Department

Bogan Shire Council has been ordered to remove a 40-year-old low level crossing that provides an essential path over the Bogan River near Coolabah so fish can travel downstream more easily.

By Abigail McLaughlin

NSW Fisheries has sent Council a work order to remove the bypass crossing at Monkey Bridge, between Coolabah and The Marra, because the structure, which is built over culvert pipes, is not ideal for fish to pass through.

The crossing was built around 40 years ago alongside the single lane Monkey Bridge and is the only option for wide machinery and livestock.

Landholders in the Coolabah district say the removal will be a logistical nightmare, and the alternative route could be more than 100 km.

The crossing entered Fisheries’ radar in 2023 when Council replaced the gravel pavement following extensive flooding.

Bogan Shire director of engineering services, Graeme Bourke, gave a report on the situation at the April Council meeting.

Mr Bourke said Coolabah residents had requested the repairs be made at a village meeting with Councillors and senior staff last year.

“Council had contractors working in the area that were able to carry out the repairs shortly after, using crushed rock pavement material to provide access to all vehicles,” Mr Bourke said.

NSW Fisheries initially objected to the work being carried out without its approval and expressed concern that the new surface could be washed into the river during a high flow and affect fish habitat.

“After further discussions with Fisheries, they advised that the existing low-level crossing, constructed with two concrete pipe culverts, is not suitable for fish passage and should be removed and replaced with a bed level crossing or a multi cell box culvert that does not restrict the flow of water in the river,” Mr Bourke said.

It is estimated that a box culvert would cost Council around $300,000 to construct, which Mr Bourke said would probably need to be grant funded in order to proceed.

At Fisheries request, an area downstream of the existing crossing was inspected for its suitability for a bed level crossing. 

A bed level crossing would consist of a hard surface below water level that machinery could pass over and fish could swim over the top.

Landholders have dismissed this alternative, saying it wouldn’t be suitable for livestock given it was underwater and the approaches would be too steep for machinery. 

Secretary of the Coolabah United Citizens, Lynette Dunn, said there were also concerns that emergency vehicles, particularly fire-fighting machinery, would be unable to cross the river and have to detour hundreds of kilometres in an emergency such as the recent bushfires.

“The bridge over the river is very narrow, and because of the way it’s built, you can’t drive wide vehicles across it, so the bypass crossing is very important.”

Mrs Dunn said local landholders had expressed their concerns to the Member for Barwon, Roy Butler.

Bogan Shire Council received 26 responses to a survey of the Coolabah district regarding the proposed changes to the crossing.

These included:

“A bed level crossing would have too much depth of water to go through with stock and machinery, and the bridge is not suitable.”

“It would be too steep for long machinery or a low loader with equipment.”

“The existing crossing has been in place since 1975 or 1976 and seems to have worked OK.”

Bogan Shire Council forwarded the feedback to NSW Fisheries, which did not respond - except to eventually issue a work order for Council to remove the entire crossing.

Councillors at the April meeting resolved to ask NSW Fisheries for permission to remove some of the new gravel from the existing bypass and also to request the retention of the bypass structure.

Council and the affected landholders have also made representations to the Member for Barwon, Roy Butler.

Mr Bourke met with Fisheries representatives last week to discuss the way forward. 

Council has been asked to remove excess gravel from the surface of the existing crossing after the current high flow in the Bogan River passes.

The work order to remove the entire crossing remains in place.


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