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A trap-and-haul fishway for multi-species upstream fish passage at a challenging site

Australia’s first trap-and-haul fishway was built on the Nerang River in southeast Queensland during enlargement of the Hinze Dam. In gaining government approval for the project, the constructing alliance (HDA) concluded that providing upstream fish passage would have significant environmental benefits by conserving upstream native fish communities and encouraging recruitment into the reservoir’s recreational fishery. But downstream passage, other than modifications to protect fish emigrating during spill events, could not be justified. Severely constrained outflows from the dam and the impacts of downstream urban development contrast starkly with upstream habitat conditions. North American design approaches were adapted to suit the river’s fishes and streamflows. Challenges for fish passage at the site included the marked restriction of downstream river flows and the location of the flow-release point 300m from the spillway. A barrier weir was built to prevent upstream migrants bypassing the fishway entrance during spillway flows. HDA developed a trap-and-haul system to collect migrating fish at the weir and transport them by tanker to multiple upstream release areas. This system provides flexibility to accommodate varying fish biomass; ability to operate over a range of flows up to 20-year ARI events; facilities for sorting, data collection and removal of pest species; and capacity to limit predation mortalities. Fishway performance studies led to redesign of the entrance vee-trap and other modifications. To 2017, 55,590 fish from 27 large and small-bodied species used the fishway, together with 8 turtles. Fish of three pest species were identified in the sorting facility and removed to prevent their entry to the reservoir. This paper covers the project life cycle for Australia’s first trap-and-haul fishway including the basis for selecting the fishway type, design and construction. Fishway performance studies and results from ongoing operation, including the lessons learned and the improvements made, are also discussed.