Port Macquarie-Hastings councillors were left shocked at the condition of the ailing waterway at Lake Cathie during a tour organised by grassroots community group Revive Lake Cathie on August 14.
The once pristine waterway is a shadow of its former self.
The lake bed is filled with sand with only patches of water visible.
Mayor Peta Pinson and councillors Justin Levido, Mike Cusato and Peter Alley attended the tour. All councillors were invited.
Revive Lake Cathie is lobbying council to widen Kenwood Drive bridge to improve tidal flows in the lake.
"We wanted to show councillors the decimation of the ecosystem due to the impacts of Kenwood Drive Bridge on tidal flow and the inability for sediment to leave the catchment," president of Revive Lake Cathie Danielle Maltman said.
Revive Lake Cathie board member and retired industrial engineer David Curry said the lake's condition "is basically a disgrace".
He believes the bridge is central to improving the water quality.
"The 10 metre bridge is not sufficient," he said.
"This is the main channel and it should allow more water through and an even flow of water."
Mr Curry would like to see a "36 metre single span bridge which wouldn't inhibit the water".
"We need to future proof the Lake Cathie/Lake Innes estuarine system constrained by drought and man-made intervention," he added.
Councillors appeared receptive to Revive Lake Cathie's message.
Cr Pinson said she was "open to all suggestions".
"This is something we haven't seen in decades and while lack of rainfall has certainly created this situation, I think we have an opportunity to look at how we manage the estuary, the lake and our coastline to prevent these sorts of events from happening again," Cr Pinson said.
"I am very open to Kenwood Drive bridge being upgraded."
Cr Alley described the lake's current state as "very sad".
"As we move forward we need to work out what we are going to do over the next six months, three years, 10 years, 30 years in terms of making this a more sustainable and robust ecological environment," he said.
He noted the Kenwood Drive bridge upgrade was "part of the mix" but an "holistic approach" was needed.
Cr Levido said the situation was "complex issue in terms of jurisdiction, with many stakeholders".
He commended Revive Lake Cathie for their advocacy on the issue but said he wasn't convinced there was a quick fix.
"I am not convinced it is a single solution but rather a multi-solution," he said.
The ailing waterway has been hampered by the drought gripping the region.
Port Macquarie is experiencing its driest year on record according to the Bureau of Metereology (BoM).
Senior climatologist for the BoM, Blair Trewin, said up until the end of July there had been 387.6mm of rain, breaking the previous January-July record low of 458.2mm set in 2014.
"There's only been another 3.2mm since the start of August," Mr Trewin said.
And the BoM seasonal climate outlook is not promising.
"It indicates a 60-70 per cent chance of below average rain for the August-October period in the region," Mr Trewin said.
Mrs Maltman said the estuarine system is in "imminent risk of acidification if the drought continues".
"With below average rainfall predicted for the next three months, without urgent action this imminent crisis will be the reality for our community," she said.
The tour comes after the lake received no funding in council's 2019-20 operational plan, announced at council's June meeting.
In January, hundreds of fish were reported dead near the Perch Hole, one of the estuaries associated with Lake Cathie.