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In August, juvenile Atlantic salmon were spotted in the Elan River in mid-Wales for the first time in more than 40 years. It’s an important step in the recovery of the river, which had gradually been depleted of aquatic life following the construction of the Elan Valley dams in 1904. Gravel has played a huge role in this turnaround.
The recent discovery comes in the wake of a three-year initiative by the Wye and Usk Foundation, along with partners Dwr Cymru Welsh Water and Natural Resources Wales, to restore the ecology of 7km of this tributary of the Wye, near the dams. These structures had prevented riverbed gravel flowing down to the lower Elan, while existing sediment had been washed away, leaving little habitat to support life.
Under the initiative, 2,300 tonnes of new gravel have been deposited in the river over the past two years, with regular top-ups planned. Initial surveys in 2017 revealed invertebrates in the gravelled area, while adult salmon were detected spawning there last winter. Salmon and brown trout fry were spotted near Elan village in August – the first time they’ve been seen there since the 1970s.
Tony Harrington, director of environment at Dwr Cymru Welsh Water, says: “We are delighted with the results of this project. This is a great example of where our funding to restore a habitat has delivered real ecological improvements.” C Vaughan
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Gravelling the Elan: wyeuskfoundation.org
Atlantic salmon are starting to return to the Elan River.