The large swell from Cyclone Oma.
The large swell from Cyclone Oma. Warren Lynam

Oma to ruin weekend fishing plans

FASTEN your seatbelts...

With winds to 40 knots and swells of four to eight metres, depending on your choice of weather forecaster, the sofa will be the safest spot for fishos this weekend.

You might think you have a favourite fishing place that will be out of the wind, but with Cyclone Oma out there somewhere, there's going to be an awful lot of water moving about - sometimes quite fast.

The Bureau of Meteorology is warning of storm tides that will add another metre to the highest expected tide of the year - in these parts, that's around 2m.

They're talking three-metre tides.

Tropical cyclones can seriously mess with ocean heights in a number of ways.

Very low atmospheric pressure means the air pressing down on the ocean is less, leading to a natural "bulge” in sea level under the cyclone cell of several metres.

Then there's the displaced seawater that gets piled higher in front of the cyclone's path as it bulldozes its way across the ocean.

Every now and again, this wall of water releases and surges away in a wall several metres higher than the normal lines of huge swells that are whipped up by its winds.

Sometimes in a storm tide, the edge of the water along the beach can be more than 100 metres away and then, without warning, the whole ocean rises and the next wave rolls right into the dunes and then sucks back seawards again.

Millions of tonnes of sand can be ripped away from exposed beaches in only a few hours, leaving sheer sandy cliffs held together by slender strands of native spinifex grass. That's unless morons in their trucks have been getting their jollies ripping through the dune grasses, as they have at Evans Head this week.

Swell was predicted to peak tomorrow afternoon around high tide but even at low tide there'll be so much water and sand on the move that the beach will be a very risky place.

View from a distance, keep an escape route to higher ground open and restrain kids and pets.

The ocean breakwalls at Ballina, Brunswick and Evans will be shaking at the impact of each wave and at high tide, the bigger waves could even roll green across the more exposed parts, potentially moving large boulders and flimsy people.

On the "sheltered” river side there will still be yo-yoing water heights from the swell and surge, as well as any tidal run.

In the estuaries, a storm tide could seriously add to Saturday afternoon's 1.7-metre prediction on the tide tables and the high after midnight will be similarly affected.

Residents and drivers in low-lying areas of Ballina will be watching closely.

And, of course, some clown will plough through the water without a thought for where it goes.

The good thing at this stage is that there is rain at last, and so far no flood warnings.

Flagship grants open

GRANT applications are for the second round of the DPI Flagship Fish Habitat Grants program, which offers successful applicants up to $400,000 over two years.

The funding is to benefit fish stocks by increasing the extent and quality of coastal fish habitat on a larger scale.

Successful projects could address wetland and riparian vegetation loss, riverbed and bank erosion, fish passage and poor water quality from acid sulfate soils.

North Coast projects scooped the pool in the initial round of successful applicants last year.

Byron Shire Council's Bringing Back the Brunswick River gained $264,700 to remove two major barriers to fish passage on the Brunswick River, providing free access to 27.4km of waterway.

North Coast Local Land Services won $365,400 for its Clybucca Wetlands Tidal Restoration plan groundwork.

The Richmond River chapter of OzFish Unlimited received $160,000 for its Tuckean Swamp Options Study, involving collection of hydrology data, engaging the community and government organisations in hydrology modelling and developing water quality improvement options.

Go to the DPI website and search for "flagship grants” for application details.