Indigo Shire has started work revamping Lake King and the native turtles are voting with their feet.
In the weeks since the earthmoving machinery started removing the dam wall to create a wetlands area, dozens of Murray River turtles have fled the lake.
They are turning up in household yards around the lake. Rutherglen residents Ray and Joy Nolan said they have had six appear in their yard, 300 metres away.
“The latest, a baby, walked the distance to reach our driveway,” Mr Nolan said. “That would be the equivalent of a human walking the Nullarbor.
“Most of those rescued by neighbours have been relocated to Lake Moodemere, although some people have taken them back to Lake King.
It appears that those returned to Lake King are not staying. On a 20 metre stretch of Moodemere Street (Murray Valley Highway), the Nolans have counted five squashed turtles.
“Some are merely a smear on the tarmac, while others appear to have been fatally injured, but managed to reach the side of the road before succumbing to their injuries,” Mr Nolan said.
An Engineering Consultant to Indigo Shire, Mr Robert Bond, who met the Nolans to discuss the plight of the turtles, said the work was not awarded to the lowest tenderer so that work could proceed while retaining some water for the turtles and fish which populate the lake.
Community consultation sessions indicated that draining the lake, as proposed by some tenderers, was not acceptable to local residents.
However, Mr Bond admitted that the turtle exodus indicated that not enough had been done in this area, despite consultations with Fisheries & Wildlife and the Environment Department.
Work on the remodelling of the lake into a wetlands area should be completed within six to eight weeks. The turtles, meanwhile, continue to flee.