Wambo Coal Aquatic Research and Monitoring

Project outline

Wambo Coal (Peabody Energy) is required under their project consent to monitor aquatic environments in accordance with AUSRIVAS standards. Project consents relate to a 3km diversion of North Wambo Creek and associated longwall mining beneath this creek.

Our role

Niche Environment and Heritage was commissioned by Wambo Coal to deliver the following:

  • Assessment of sediment impacts on the aquatic ecology of North Wambo Creek downstream of the approved creek diversion
  • Develop and implement an AUSRIVAS compliant aquatic monitoring program
  • Development of manageable targets for stream health

Niche successfully delivered the first AUSRIVAS compliant aquatic monitoring program for Wambo Coal in 2013, following an earlier appointment involving the delivery of an investigation into the affects of sediment deposition on aquatic environs within North Wambo Creek.

The comprehensive AUSRIVAS monitoring program has provided Wambo Coal with a baseline for the ongoing monitoring of river health of North Wambo Creek, Waterfall Creek, South Wambo Creek and the Wollombi Brook. Unexpected findings with future management implications included the identification of streams in high condition and vertebrate fish populations.

The aquatic ecology expertise provided by Niche enabled Wambo Coal to satisfy their regulatory obligations

The quantitative investigation of sediment deposition impacts on North Wambo Creek involved an analysis of aquatic ecosystems downstream of the North Wambo Creek diversion and nearby streams. Findings and recommendations were rapidly provided to Wambo Coal including suggested remediation/rehabilitation management actions and ongoing monitoring specifications enabling a satisfactory timely response to the regulatory authority.

Challenges

Assessing the ecology of ephemeral/semi-permanent streams is technically challenging as they are complex systems that naturally fluctuate between good and poor health as they cycle through wet and dry periods. Understanding these factors is fundamental to analysis of stream health in systems where anthropological impacts are being monitoring and managed. Despite these challenges the aquatic ecology expertise provided by Niche enabled Wambo Coal to satisfy their regulatory obligations.

Results

Niche provided Wambo Coal with a comprehensive report that demonstrated to regulators that sediment deposition was unlikely to have a lasting significant impact on stream ecology. We also recommended simple and cost effective rehabilitation and mediation measures – including the installation of artificial in-stream habitats (e.g. log jams) – to ensure the ongoing health of Wambo Creek and its ecosystem.

Niche recommended simple and cost effective measures to ensure the ongoing health of Wambo Creek and its ecosystem

The monitoring program has not only delivered on Wambo Coal’s project consent requirements, it has also been designed to accommodate potential future expansion projects. Current approval processes regularly require the completion of baseline surveys of at least 2 years duration. The Niche-developed monitoring program has the potential to substantially minimise any time cost implications arising from the approvals process.

Matthew Russell, Aquatic Ecologist
Mob: 0488 224 083
Email: mrussell@niche-eh.com

Aquatic Research and Monitoring

Aquatic monitoring program