ZWF News – More water for Lake St Lucia – ZO STORY: Dave Savides – 25/07/11

The mouth of the Mfolozi River has been opened to the sea by breaching the beach berm, to prevent back-flooding of low-lying sugar cane fields after recent heavy rains swelled the river, and to allow marine species to enter through the back channels

A new channel is being opened to increase the flow of fresh water from the Mfolozi River into Lake St Lucia. According to the iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, progress on the second back channel has been impeded due to the recent unseasonal heavy Winter rains and resultant muddy conditions, but excavation will continue once conditions improve. ‘The creation of the second channel linking the Mfolozi River to the estuary is a significant step in bringing relief to Lake St Lucia following the eight-year drought in north-eastern KZN,’ said Andrew Zaloumis, iSimangaliso Wetland Authority CEO. ‘It will assist in maintaining the viability of the St Lucia system and allowing the Mfolozi to naturally link into the St Lucia estuary as it did before man’s intervention. ‘Over the past 50 years, there have been numerous attempts to solve the problems that have arisen as a result of the changes to the Mfolozi catchment and St Lucia system. ‘It is evident that no quick fix solution is possible. ‘Using the best available science, we are implementing an ongoing, well researched management strategy to improve the ecological viability of the St Lucia system with its adjoining wetlands,’ said Zaloumis. ‘Based on the review of current scientific knowledge, particularly the recent research on the sources and dispersal of sediments, and an assessment of the status of the Lake St Lucia system, the Mfolozi and St Lucia mouths will be allowed to combine during the rainy season. ‘iSimangaliso is currently implementing a $9-million Global Environmental Facility (GEF) project which is developing a longer term solution to improve the hydrological functioning of Lake St Lucia by investigating alternative management options and selecting the most feasible solutions. ‘Ezemvelo staff are working with the iSimangaliso staff in implementing these new measures and we certainly look forward to seeing the results,’ he said.